Man Who Ran Illegal Wine Operation Inside Sewage Plant Avoids Felony Charge
It's been a wild couple of months for Allen Maurice Stiefel. In December, the 62-year-old Alabama man was busted for running an unlicensed winery out of the sewage plant where he worked. He lost his longtime job as a supervisor following his arrest, and in early March, he received a $250 fine and a suspended 90-day sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful possession of an illegally manufactured alcoholic beverage.
On the bright side for Stiefel, a potential Class B felony charge of using an official position for personal gain was dropped after he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor illegal booze charge. In addition to the fine, Stiefel was ordered to pay court costs. According to the Times Journal, DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden said that narcotics agents received an anonymous tip about the Rainsville Wastewater Treatment Plant, and when officers investigated, they discovered an "unlicensed winery" in one corner of the facility.
Let's be honest though, calling it a "winery" is a bit of a stretch: based on the photos released by the Sheriff's Office, it was mostly a collection of glass containers, plastic crates, and fermentation buckets stacked on and around a wooden rack. (So no, there wasn't a tasting room or a gift shop.) Although the Associated Press reported that Alabama residents are permitted to have up to 15 gallons of homemade wine or beer at any given time, the 2020 vintage that was fermenting at Stiefel's DIY Sewage Winery added up to around 100 gallons of unlicensed hooch.
"I want to thank the mayor for his cooperation and willingness to allow law enforcement to do our job and shut something like this down," Sheriff Welden said in a statement. "This is definitely one of the biggest operations we've seen in our county and possibly our state. A big thanks to the public and their tips against ALL illegal activities. Once again, it doesn't matter who you are, no one is above the law. We won't tolerate anyone using their position to hide their illegal actions at the taxpayer's expense."
Mayor Roger Lingerfelt told The Gadsden Times that Stiefel had been "an excellent employee" during his 15 years with the city, and that he'd never caused any previous problems at the plant. And no, the wine wasn't made with any wastewater, nor was the facility's equipment used during the production process. We hope that was mentioned in the tasting notes.