Court documents reveal inner workings of alleged massive moonshine operation
An alleged illegal Cocke County moonshine operation purportedly headed by undauntable lead distiller Jack Mayfield Jr. was toppled by a former customer and still-hand who took his hourly wages in white lightning, according to federal court documents.
A federal grand jury in Greeneville indicted Mayfield, his alleged top associate, Michael Steve Reece, and James Carroll Hickman for allegedly producing moonshine at Mayfield’s Beechwood Road property in the Carson Springs community of Cocke County.
Mayfield, who is in his late 40s, was also indicted for possession of two fully automatic machine guns.
An application for a search warrant and other court documents unsealed Tuesday provide a detailed description of an alleged high-volume moonshining operation – 15 to 18 500-gallon copper stills bricked into the floor – that was stymied, at times, by Mayfield’s lack of business savvy, according to court documents.
Mayfield allegedly continued to produce moonshine after state law enforcement officials raided the business in early April and seized stills, white lightning, firearms and moonshine ingredients, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Suzanne Kerney-Quillen.
In March, Mayfield was forced to suspended liquor sales, not because he didn’t have any product, but because he had spent all his money and didn’t have the cash to purchase Mason jars, according to the federal prosecutor.
Mayfield allegedly shared his financial dilemma with the unidentified confidential informant.
“Mayfield Jr. said that he should have paid every bill he had when he had $20,000 in his pocket,” the application for the search warrant written by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Matthew B. Thompson states. “Mayfield Jr. said he ended up with no jars and was now broke.”
Not having Mason jars, the traditional vessels in which moonshine is sold, cost Mayfield lots of money, according to the TBI agent.
Thompson represents that Mayfield routinely distilled 70 cases consisting of 12 quart jars of 100-proof moonshine per day. The cases sold wholesale for $75 apiece, which means every day Mayfield went jar-less, he was losing more than $5,000, according to the application for the search warrant.
Apple pie-flavored moonshine was the top seller, which sold for $10 per quart on the retail market, according to the TBI agent.
Criminal investigators, which included Chad Beck, a Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent from Morristown, conclusively flipped the cooperating witness this year on Feb. 14, according to Thompson.
About week earlier, law enforcement officials confiscated approximately 50 gallons of untaxed moonshine at the confidential informant’s residence, along with apple pie-flavored spices and jars, according to Thompson.
The confidential informant, who has a criminal history and has served time in jail, was recruited to work at Mayfield’s moonshine stills, which were propane-powered and supplied with water through a pipe from a dammed-up portion of the nearby Jones Branch, in 2010, the TBI agent represented.
“The CI was paid $10 per hour for working at the still site and was provided moonshine as payment rather than cash,” the application for the search warrant states.
After about a year, the informant “became dissatisfied” with his job and quit, but continued as one of Mayfield’s regular customers, purchasing between six and 10 cases, twice a month, according to the TBI agent.
On March 28, Thompson received permission from U.S. Magistrate Dennis H. Inman to place Mayfield’s property under around-the-clock video surveillance, an authorization that was extended after Mayfield allegedly continued to sell moonshine after the April 4 raid.
Mayfield, Reece, who is in his early 50s, and Hickman, who is in his late 40s, were indicted on Aug. 13. Mayfield was taken into custody on Aug. 26, and was released on a personal-recognizance bond, along with his codefendants, two days later.
One of the buildings in which Mayfield allegedly distilled moonshine was a purported motorcycle-repair shop that’s atypical for a few reasons, according to Thompson. There are no signs visible from Beechwood Road indicating the name of the business or its operating hours, according to the search warrant application.
The TBI agent indicated he was unable to find any listings or advertisements for the business.
Thompson indicated he observed very few motorcycles there, but heavy short-duration vehicle visits to the garage up until 2 a.m., “which is outside the normal operating hours for a motorcycle-repair shop,” the application states.
What also seems clear is that lots of people knew, or had good reason to know, Mayfield was distilling moonshine, the TBI agent suggested.
Mayfield wasn’t exclusively a wholesale dealer. He allegedly sold liquor to the “general public,” according to the TBI agent.
Apart from the heavy traffic at his residence, to bottle all the moonshine Mayfield’s stills could produce would have required 840 Mason jars, a prodigious amount for even the hardest-working canner.
Also, the amount of sugar Mayfield purchased from a market on Highway 25E in Newport, would have appeared to outstrip any legitimate private need. At one point, his sugar tab at the market reached $3,000, according to Thompson.
Mayfield filled his propane tanks – typically four at a time – at a campground in Carson Springs.
Putting his hands on the corn required for his alleged distillery operations was far less conspicuous. The farmer who provided the corn traded Mayfield for finished white lightning, according to the TBI agent.
-By Robert Moore, Tribune Staff Writer