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Moonshine still bust ends with arrest

January 10, 2013

Word spread quickly after Choctaw County Deputies located a still at the home of a Choctaw County senior citizen, and arrested him on charges of making moonshine.

According to Choctaw County Sheriff Terry Park, a deputy went to the house, which was located northwest of Soper, around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 3, 2013, on a search warrant for another case when he found a still in a metal trailer on the property.

Authorities say the still is one of the largest they have seen. The still, with an estimated capacity of more than 200 gallons, was distilling whiskey in a metal storage unit when deputies executed the warrant. It was capable of producing 200 gallons in just two weeks.

According to the reports, his son, George Holder, arrived during the deputies' search and was arrested on suspicion of transporting the liquor. A subsequent search of his residence in Pushmataha County yielded moonshine, marijuana and guns. G. Holder was booked into the Choctaw County Jail on complaints of possessing untaxed liquor, operating an unlicensed whiskey still and transporting a loaded firearm.

Deputies arrested Larry Holder, 69 of Soper (property owner), and his son George Holder, 42 of Rattan, who they say made the moonshine at the father's house using corn.

Deputies called in the help of ABLE Commission agents who said the still had its own heater. "Once it gets into the heater it heats up long enough turns into vapor, the vapor runs across and then they cool it and when they cool it, that's actually where you get the finished product," says ABLE Commission agent Erik Smoot.

"Normally 5, 10, 20 gallons, maybe a 50 gallon tank once in a while, but this we believe would manufacture 200 gallons at a time, so he's making a large amount of whiskey," says Smoot.

ABLE agents bust at least one illegal distillery a year in southeastern Oklahoma, a hotbed for moonshine activity, but that number would be much higher if the agency could afford to investigate every complaint it receives, said agents.

"Southeast Oklahoma is typically the haven for moonshiners," he said. "I don't think people realize that it's a serious crime."

"We've had one or two whiskey stills in the past but never to this size," says Park, who was sworn in Thursday as Choctaw County’s new Sheriff.

Investigators say not only is making moonshine illegal, it can also be dangerous. The alcohol that's produced can be tainted with toxins and that kind of stuff can't be regulated if it's just cooked out anywhere.

Both men face several charges including operating a still, possession of alcohol, and possessing a firearm in commission of a felony. Deputies say they also confiscated several guns and an old still.

In Oklahoma, possessing a moonshine still with intent to produce alcohol is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

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