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Master still produced 9,000 gallons of illegal moonlight on farm in North Carolina, federal government says

A “folk hero” in the Moonlight World is accused of helping run an illegal still on a rural North Carolina farm that produced over 9,000 gallons of untaxed alcohol over the course of more than two years. years.

Roger “Buck” Nance is among five people currently charged with federal charges, according to court documents.

Nance is the Master Distiller of Copper Barrel, a licensed moonlight distillery in North Wilkseboro. He was indicted in the Western District of North Carolina in August, along with Clifton Ray Anderson Jr. – who is accused of operating the still – and Huie Kenneth Nicholson – who prosecutors say carried gallons of white liquor in a shed in Virginia.

James Patterson and Gary Matthew Ray were also indicted by criminal information on Friday. Patterson reportedly paid $ 20 a gallon for the moonlight, which was made in a Wilkes County barn rented by Ray, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys representing Nance, Anderson, Nicholson and Patterson as well as a representative from Copper Barrel did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Monday.

Contact details for Ray’s attorney were not immediately available.

Plastic jugs, white vans and a “hiding place”

According to an indictment filed Aug. 17, Nance conspired with others in Wilkes County to build and operate an illegal moonlight still from April 2018.

Moonshine is another term for alcohol made in secret to avoid taxes or circumvent alcohol bans. It is often referred to as “brilliant,” “corn,” “corn liquor,” or “white liquor,” and is typically made from cornmeal, sugar, yeast, and water.

Anderson was asked to operate the illegal still, which prosecutors said produced hundreds of gallons of moonlight per week. He then sold the liquor back to Nance for $ 10 a gallon, less the cost of supplies provided by Nance.

Once the moonlight was ready, Nicholson drove him about 250 miles northeast to a “hideout” in Stony Creek, Va., According to the indictment.

The three men were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax evasion, illegal production of distilled spirits, aiding and abetting and possession of an unregistered still.

Court documents show they were arrested on August 19 and released on bail.

The separate charges against Patterson and Ray were filed Friday for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Patterson is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday for a plea hearing.

According to court documents filed in his case, Patterson started buying moonlight from Nance in 2018 for $ 20 a gallon. Patterson lives in Dinwiddie, Virginia, about 16 miles from Stony Creek Hideout.

The moonlight was distilled in a Wilkes County barn owned by Ray, which he rented from Anderson for $ 500 a month, prosecutors said. Ray also lived on the farm and allegedly used leftover mash from the distillation process to feed his cattle.

Moonlight was stored in plastic jugs without any labels and delivered to Virginia once or twice a week, according to court documents. Patterson would then turn around and sell it to customers for anywhere from $ 26 to $ 50 a gallon, prosecutors said.

Each delivery typically consisted of 20 cases containing six gallons of moonlight, for a total of 120 gallons.

Prosecutors said the operation continued until September 2020 and bypassed around $ 100,000 in federal and state taxes.

It was not immediately clear how investigators discovered the illegal operation. But weeks before prosecutors announced the end, a motorist carrying 20 gallons of “suspected moonlight” was arrested for speeding south of Raleigh in Cumberland County.

Photographs of the bust shared by the NC Highway Patrol show gallons of plastic jugs in the back of what appears to be a white pickup truck.

“Capital of the world Moonshine”

Moonshine has deep roots in North Carolina and Wilkes County, which once billed itself as the “Moonshine Capital of the World,” according to NCPedia.

It is also a tradition to which “Buck” Nance found himself intrinsically linked.

Nance – who spent most of his life in Wilkes County and made the majority of the equipment used at Copper Barrel himself – designed the world’s first legal steam injection distillation system for moonlight. . He said the design came from designs his father brought back from World War II.

“There is more good moonlight made here in this county than anywhere else in the world you go,” he said in a video on the distillery’s website.

After meeting Nance in 2019, a writer for Patriarch magazine described him as living “somewhere outside the law, or at least on the fringes of it.”

Nance was caught in 2009 with 926 gallons of untaxed alcohol at his Wilkesboro home, the Watauga Democrat reported. No distillery was found, but the then 63-year-old Nance finished a few citations related to possession.

According to the patriarch, moonlight is not so much about the “outlaw side of tradition” for Nance as it is about craftsmanship.

“It is part of a folk tradition, which by necessity has been passed orally, secretly, from moonlight to moonlight, and which continues to focus its attention,” the magazine reported. “He is proud of this tradition and keeps it even now. “

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