The Roanoke Times reports that Virginia’s one-of-a-kind Illegal Whiskey Unit – a team of agents dedicated to busting up bootleg stills – has fallen prey to state budget woes, leaving Southwest Virginia’s elusive moonshiners without a full-time, dedicated foe for the first time in decades. The whiskey unit based in Franklin County, long considered the “moonshine capital of the world,” once numbered as many as five agents. Now, it has one part-time member.
A spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which created the whiskey unit in 1985, said the department will stay on top of moonshiners by charging all of its agents statewide with pursuing their own investigations. Much of the whiskey unit’s work involved sneaking into the woods of the state’s back country, staking out still sites and conducting around-the-clock surveillance in hopes that a still’s operator would show up. Asked how the area’s black-market hooch can be policed without the expertise of a fully staffed whiskey unit, Don Harris, 63, the unit’s remaining member, said: “That’s a good question. You’ll have to pose that to Richmond.”