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'Moonshine' bust a cultural misunderstanding?

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Vasile Casna

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A neighbor on Carriage Way caught wind of a suspicious burning smell Saturday and called the authorities. The concern was that someone had started an illegal fire in the quiet neighborhood that branches off Old Peachtree Road near Lawrenceville.

Gwinnett County Fire Department arson investigators traced the smoke to a homemade distillery in the backyard of a split-level home at 2033 Carriage Way, at which point they called in agents with the Georgia Department of Revenue. The homeowner, 63-year-old Vasile Casna, was arrested on felony charges of possessing untaxed whiskey.

Casna's arrest warrant refers to his backyard distillation endeavors as "moonshining," but it's a claim that the Romanian expatriate's friends denied Wednesday. Instead, they said Casna was using grapes to distill a traditional and potent Romanian spirit called "tuica" for strictly personal consumption.

"He was not trying to make moonshine. I don't think he knows how to make moonshine," said a friend who identified himself only as George. "He was not going to sell it, that's for sure."

Casna, who was released from jail on $5,400 bond the day of his arrest, did not return a message left at his home Wednesday. Friends said he legally emigrated from Romania more than five years ago and works as a carpenter, specializing in hardwood-floor installation.

Authorities found that the distilling process had just begun at Casna's alleged still, where they confiscated 40 gallons of grape mash. Tuica is traditionally made in Romania from plums, but a shortage forced Casna to use grapes here, his friend told the Daily Post.

Bootleggers who produce moonshine have the reputation of residing in the North Georgia mountains or other rural areas, and they've been running from tax collectors since the Prohibition era. More recently, legal moonshine has cropped up in haute eateries, and its origins have become the source of cherished lore and celebration. Dawson County devotes an entire festival to the hooch, and has for 45 years.

Jud Seymour, Georgia Department of Revenue spokesman, said underground distilleries are uncommon in general and especially in Atlanta's suburbs. Data on the number of stills dismantled in recent years was not immediately available, he said.

"While illegal distilling is still around, it's nowhere near as prevalent as it used to be," Seymour said.

Gwinnett County Jail records show that only seven people, including Casna, have been charged with possessing untaxed liquor in the last 20 years. Georgia law forbids the distillation of any spirits without proper licensing, under a penalty of one to five years in prison if convicted of the felony.

The most recent Gwinnett bust bore similarities to Casna's case.

In 2010, at another unassuming Lawrenceville residence about 13 miles away, authorities arrested another Romanian expat, Constantine Ana, 66, on similar charges.

Deputies who went to the duplex to evict Ana discovered a still that used fermented apples and potatoes on his back porch. Authorities said at the time they confiscated 37 gallons of liquor.

Ana pleaded guilty under first-offender status in October and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Seymour said distilling spirits at home is inherently dangerous, both to those who drink the liquor and nearby residents. Drinkers can ingest lead or other toxins born of non-sterilized production instruments. "Also, fires and explosions are not uncommon," he said.

Samples of the grape mash at Casna's home were sent to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for analysis. The distilling apparatus was disassembled and transported to a Department of Revenue warehouse for storage, according to a report.

Components included a 40-gallon distilling pot, a metal lid, plastic jug and two metal pipes.

Comments

R 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes distilling and fermenting liquor is cultural misunderstanding, a lot like ATF.

Stop persecuting those parties of Irish, Scottish, Russian and English heritage!!!!

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kevin 1 year, 11 months ago

what about Italians, who drink wine like we drink water? It's a staple.

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R 1 year, 11 months ago

Sorry - didn't mean to be a bigot.

Persecuted and suppressed heritages UNITE!

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NewsReader 1 year, 11 months ago

OMG, the horror of it all! This is a terrible terrible crime. He should be taken out and strung up by the...never mind. Are you friggin' kidding me? He's probably guilty of other outrageous crimes too...like jay walking!

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BuzzG 1 year, 11 months ago

A quarter million illegal aliens reside in Georgia and no one will touch them. But let one poor legal Romanian fellow try some home brew without paying tax, and the State comes down on him. I hope I am chosen to sit on the jury for his trial.

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kevin 1 year, 11 months ago

The Ga Dept of Revenue hasn't collected millions from politicians and other in income taxes. Why don't we see this is in the papers?

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Sthrnldy 1 year, 11 months ago

Bless his heart, I guess he immigrated to this country after watching The Andy Griffith Show. Afterall, Miss Clara and Miss Jennifer didn't make moonshine either. Their elixir was only or celebrations and special occassions!

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

So..."untaxed whisky," huh? How long before the government starts cracking down on people who tend their own gardens for possessing "untaxed carrots?"

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roaads1 1 year, 11 months ago

Do a Google search. The federal government and some local governments are prosecuting people for growing their own food and especially raw milk. It's awful. This guy will get more time and fines that Bannister, Kennerly and McKinney combined. That's an unbalanced justice system.

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mugsy 1 year, 11 months ago

The neighbor that called police has to be among the most pathetic people in the county. Why not talk to your neighbor instead of getting authorities involved?

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toby 1 year, 11 months ago

You can make all the whiskey, wine and beer you want as long as you do not sell it. There is no tax on personal booze. And it sure wasn't moonshine if he was using grapes. I want his receipe. The neighbor was mad at him for some other reason. Maybe he wouldn't share his brew. When did he have time to brew? Most Romanians are laying hardwood floors and do a good job at it.

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kevin 1 year, 11 months ago

they were probably worried about an explosion.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

The thing about his neighbor being upset is probably pretty accurate. I've been in a subdivision for a little over a year now, and the few times were something has seemed amiss, I go to the neighbor first and make sure things are okay. You only call the authorities immediately if you a) know that no one is home, or b) have a grudge and think a visit from your friendly, neighborhood Gwinnett County Police Officer will make things all better.

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tim1sby 1 year, 11 months ago

you are correct, as the atf does have a clause for home brewing .

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RiggaTony 1 year, 11 months ago

What did we expect when we decided to legalize drunken carousing during the Sunday alcohol sales referendums? Now people think it's completely okay to do things like this, and brew unlawful (and immoral) beverages on their own. Because our elected leaders don't have the guts to stand up to a bunch of bullies who want to jam their Sunday liquor down our throats, we can expect more crime like this. We're pretty much living in Thunderdome.

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NewsReader 1 year, 11 months ago

Seriously RiggaTony, you are crazy. You are wayyyyy out there! It is much better for people to wonder if you're a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. We all understand...you just had to say something in lieu of having something to say.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

RiggaTony - What part of Mayberry do you live in? Apparently you live around a group of people who have no self-control, save for the church, and now that alcohol sales are legal on Sundays, your neighborhood has turned into a den of sin and debauchery. If you really think Sunday Liquor Sales are the worst thing that ever happened to this nation, then you have issues.

Also, you know Christ supplied an entire wedding party with wine, right? it now just grape juice, the partakers knew it was good wine, and wondered why the wedding party had withheld the good stuff. My reading of the Bible leads me to three distinct individuals who were forbidden to drink (Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas), and a disclaimer that we should be sober. Maybe your tolerance is nonexistent, but some of us are capable of a drink or two without spiraling into a drunken stupor.

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Mack711 1 year, 11 months ago

This was put to a vote of the citizens of Gwinnett and cities in Gwinnett. The democratic process worked, now if you do not wish to purchase alcholic beverages that is your decesion. We respect your right not to purchase anything you do not want to. But please do not say that our elected leaders did not stand up to the bullies, they did their job and ask the voting citizens what they wanted. Sorry your side lost that election but that is why we have elections. Sunday sales has nothing to do with this issue., absolutely NOTHING!!!

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RiggaTony 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes, Sunday sales was exactly democracy. In other words - mob rule. That's why our founding fathers set up our country as representative republic. We're governed by the rule of law, not majority whim. That's why it was so galling for our county "leaders" to allow the common rabble to turn over generations of law and tradition in this state. Our laws protect the minority from the whim of the majority, and in this case, those of us who still adhere to the Biblical principals this country was founded on had our rights trampled by the secularist majority. But we knew it was headed that way when the chief secularist, Obama, was elected in 2008.

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NewsReader 1 year, 11 months ago

Do you actually read what you write? "...We're governed by the rule of law, not, not majority whim..." THAT'S RIGHT! We are, which is why "we" voted to change it. Please explain to the rest of us how your rights have been trampled on by anybody, let alone the secularist majority? Like I said, you are wayyyy out there! And as a Christian, if it is your desire to be evangelist to the rest of us sinners, it would behoove you to do so in a manner consistent with Christian principles instead of this absolute lunacy you keep preaching.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

RiggaTony - Yes, we are a representative republic. that does NOT mean that our elected officials are making rules and forcing them on us without giving us a say, though. Yes, it does happen that way, but not all the time. In this case, a law was proposed, and it was decided that the people would have a say. That's truly government of, by, and for the people.

Now, on to another point you made... what rights doe you have that have been trampled by Obama? Did you think it was your right to force businesses not to sell a product? Please show me anywhere in the Constitution that authorizes, as a God-given right, the ability to force a private business owner to not sell something.

That "secularist majority" would say that you (meaning Right-Wing Christians) were trampling on their rights for all the years that Sunday sales were illegal. Remember, I'm a right-wing Christian, too. I just know that you cannot use the law to enforce your religion's version of morality.

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Mack711 1 year, 11 months ago

The term is 'MAJORITY RULES, NOT MOB RULE' The majority that went to the poles and voted for this issue are the ones who had Majority Rule. If you and your group did not get out the vote and the other did then push for another election in the future. You probably will not win then either. If the truth be known there were a lot of church members that voted for it or it may not have passed. There are many laws on the books that we voted on and did not go our way, but they are still the law. Now GET OVER IT and move on to another subject, this vote is over, done with and passed!*

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Braveshopr 1 year, 11 months ago

You probably don't know the bible of which you thump, otherwise you would not hate people you don't even know.

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Baba 1 year, 11 months ago

HAHAHAHAH....SO RIGGA YOU ARE AMONG THE PEOPLE THAT THINK BEVERAGES CAN BE IMMORAL??? HHAHAHAH THAT MEANS 98% OF THE WORLD POPULATION IS DOING IMMORAL THINGS AND WE ALL SHOULD BE ARRESTED . DRINKS ARE NOT ILLEGAL AND IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO PRODUCE....EXACTLY LIKE POTATOES ARE NOT ILLEGAL AND ARE NOT ILLEGAL TO PRODUCE ! "bunch of bullies who want to jam their Sunday liquor down our throats"- SO IF THEY ARE ALLOWED TO SELL DRINKS ON SUNDAY YOU JUST FEEL OBLIGATED TO BUY RIGHT ???BECAUSE IF THEY SELL IT THEY PRACTICALLY JAM THEIR LIQUOR DOWN YOUR THOROUT ! GOD I CAN'T BELIVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU EXIST AND ACTUALY LIVE IN USA THESE DAYS !

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

I buy the disgruntled neighbor scenario as well. Just look at the meth house in Lilburn where several children lost their lives. What if this neighbor felt something of that scale was taking place. I would call LE rather than be blown to bits by a potential explosion. Sometimes being neighborly can be dangerous.

Immigrants need to learn our laws and not claim ignorance.

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ssilover1 1 year, 11 months ago

Is this like the guy who was arrested for carrying a weapon when he had a permit? A good lawyer will have to be involved and it's quite possible the GCPD will look a bit foolish. Don't get me wrong. They had to investigate, but I'm not really sure which law was broken. How can he be charged with having untaxed whiskey when he is lawfully allowed to possess brew he makes? What evidence did they have that he was selling?

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msimina 1 year, 11 months ago

i have no idea what moonshine is but this guy was trying to produce something else....called like the reporter says "Tuica". Which is a Romanian traditional self-distiled alcoholic beverage made from plumes (the high quality stuff) or apples(pears) when plumes are not available. It has around 65 degrees and it tastes like fire if u don't know how to enjoy it's blessing... For those who want to make a better idea here is a tutorial on how you're supposed to drink it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk49ls... it's in romanian but words aren't necessary...just watch and learn...monkey see...monkey does...have fun

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PaulieD 1 year, 11 months ago

Home brewing is a long-standing tradition in our country and it stretches hundreds of years back. Mostly everyone who lives in the countryside has equipment for this kind of work, and everyone knows how to use it. And since they all have it, selling doesn't happen too often. One good reason for this: the booze is too good to sell to others :)

Romanians brew tzuicah, which is made of fermented plums, and "palinka", which is made of fermented pears, apples and other fruits. They also make wine, if they have a vineyard. The processes are quite harmless, so talking about an explosion.. that's out of the question. All that could happen is the owner dying because of the carbon monoxide released in the fermenting process, but as I said, this is a centuries old tradition, and most people know how to avoid that. The neighbour shouldn't have feared an explosion or anything, because there wasn't nothing "explodable" there.

I should warn you of another romanian custom... killing a pig in the yard, the days before Christmas :)

I agree with the "learn the laws of the adoptive country" idea, but I think authorities should discern between a felony and a harmless tradition. After all, there is Google :)

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bogdan 1 year, 11 months ago

Hi, I am from Romania and I can confirm that home brewing is a tradition in our country. Romanians don`t sell alcohol, they brew it for their own use.

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

I am going to try and be as polite as I can about this issue...

It is a tradition in your home country, but you chose to immigrate to the US. Our laws and rules don't change for your traditions.

We had an tragedy in Gwinnett where an immigrant mother killed her children in a house where she was making meth. While it does not compare to making home brew, horrible things can happen. I am sure whoever reported this guy was concerned more about a potential tragedy and lots of suspicious activity. Period.

We have laws in this country and yes, many of them are absurb, but that does not give anyone the right to break them. You can't make excuses for your cultural traditions if they aren't in accordance with our laws, it just doesn't work that way.

Freedom does not mean being a free-for-all country with out rules and laws.

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berege 1 year, 11 months ago

Hi,

I am also from Romania and that is a tradition in our country, but you have 100% right! Your country - your rules! I think everyone must respect that think!

All the best!

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wasd 1 year, 11 months ago

dude,are u crazy?comparing home-made brewsky with methamphetamine is just to much of a strech.And the part with the freedom,well lets just say that the recent NDAA and Cispa coming to complete Patriot Act doesn't sound like much freedom at all.Good luck to all free americans from the danger brought to you by legal immigrants and their old customs.

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Mossad 1 year, 11 months ago

news2me don't be silly, you don't have too try to be polite, be rude. Beside that poor guy is an moron, you have right. He did a mistake, he have to pay. No matter. but far as i know, he isn't yet a convicted person and i remember the time i was stay in your's country that everyone benefit of ... how is calling? .... "benefit of the doubt". Well, before you open yours mouth to say something, wipe it with some toilet paper. you know why.

guys i'm from the land of "Tuica". I know that, in here, people do it at home, and never sale it. Is wrong if they do it there, if that break the law. case close.

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news2me 1 year, 10 months ago

Wow looks as though we have many of new Romanian posters to the GDP. You might want to lay off the Tuica while your posting though, as I didn't understand any valid points you were trying to make.

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 10 months ago

There's quite a bit of misinformation posted here. I've been homebrewing (NON-distilled items like beer, wine and mead) for around 20 years. Georgia law allows up to 100 gallons per adult person per year to be made privately. You can give it away but cannot sell it. Distilled products are an entirely different deal - knowing when the methanol (a certain death warrant) stops and the ethanol (the good stuff) begins is, well, pretty important, duh. Then there's controlling the boiling of a flammable byproduct (as in kaboom). This guy needed to be stopped, just out of safety concerns, not to mention that the place looked like a pig would have turned its snout up at the place it was being done in - ewwwwww!

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NewsReader 1 year, 10 months ago

The least of which is yours, right Cleanupguy? How is it you've come to know so much about this guy's place? Never mind!

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 10 months ago

The least of which is my what? Great linguistic prowess there. Anyway, I saw what the place looked like on whatcha call one of them there moving picture talkie machines - WSB-TV did a great walking tour of the illegal site.

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JohnGalt 1 year, 10 months ago

Don't you think it was pretty apparent Cleanupguy?

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Cleanupguy 1 year, 10 months ago

I was pretty sure that it would have been clear even to Ray Charles, but ostensibly it wasn't thus to NewsReader.

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