Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Wirtz man pleads guilty to moonshining operation
Lester Ray Hodge, 44, pleaded guilty to illegal manufacture of alcohol and to possession of a sawed-off shotgun.
A 44-year-old Wirtz man pleaded guilty this morning in Franklin County Circuit Court to two felony charges tied to the small moonshining operation he conducted from his home on Beaver Creek Road.
Lester Ray Hodge pleaded guilty to illegal manufacture of alcohol and to possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Judge Stacey Moreau ordered a presentence investigation and set sentencing for Jan. 3.
In exchange for Hodge’s guilty pleas, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Allen agreed not to prosecute two other charges – possession of a dangerous weapon in proximity to the illegal manufacture of alcohol and a misdemeanor charge of the possession of alcohol illegally acquired.
In addition, Allen agreed not to prosecute Hodge’s wife, Michelle Lynn Hodge, on a charge of possessing a weapon as a convicted felon. Allen said she had gone through the civil process to restore her gun rights prior to the filing of charges related to the moonshining operation.
Allen said three agents from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, acting on a tip, raided the Hodges’ home on June 25. He said the couple cooperated with the agents and consented to a search of the home and a utility trailer. In the trailer, agents discovered a distillery operation that included a 55-gallon mash barrel, several propane tanks, a two-burner cook stove and containers of alcohol, he said.
The search also recovered a sawed-off shotgun and more than 13 gallons of “untaxed liquor in various locations around the house,” Allen said.
“It wasn’t a big operation,” he said.