ATF busts moonshine still in north Georgia

ATLANTA - Two men have been indicted on charges of running a moonshine still in the Chattahoochee National Forest in the north Georgia mountains.

Two other men have been indicted on charges of possessing the distilled spirits from the still, which was hidden in the forest in Rabun County and operated between January 2005 and February 2006, according to the criminal indictment in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, released Friday.

Brett Jarrard, 46, Max Moss, 69, Terry Singleton, 63, and Kelly Standridge, 65, were arrested Thursday night and were arraigned Friday in Gainesville, said Marc Jackson, a spokesman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The men pleaded not guilty and were released on bond, Jackson said.

'These types of cases are not as common as they once were, but we want to stress that cases such as this are far from trivial,' Jackson said. 'They deny the government revenue, encroach on a legitimate industry and pose a significant health risk.'

The health risk comes from lead poisoning, because the crude equipment used - such as a car radiator used in the seized distillation apparatus - often leaks dangerous amounts of lead into the liquor.

Samples taken by federal agents at the site showed the distilled spirits had lead levels of 1,508 parts per billion - more than a hundred times what federal environmental officials consider the safe level for drinking water.

Agents staked out the still for two months, from December 2005 to January 2006, according to an affidavit in a civil case filed in April 2006 that granted forfeiture of the vehicles involved in the alleged operation, which authorities had seized in February 2006.

Jarrard and Moss, both of Clayton, are charged with six counts of tax violations in running the still and producing and selling distilled spirits without paying federal taxes on them, according to the indictment. Those charges carry a maximum total sentence of thirty years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 plus back taxes.

Jarrard, Singleton, also of Clayton, and Standridge of Westminster, S.C., are each charged with one count of receiving the liquor knowing that taxes hadn't been paid on it. That charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Reached at his home Friday afternoon, Singleton said he had no comment. Nobody answered the phone at Jarrard's and Moss's residences. A phone message left at Standridge's home wasn't immediately returned. It was not immediately clear who their attorneys were.