Canned Moonshine: Troopers Seize Largest Still in County History

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L-R: NYS Trooper J. P. Fisher, Undersheriff Lawrence Higley, Sheriff Ross Hollenbeck, Deputy Matthew McGlen, NYS Trooper, B. L. Brine.

Volume 2, Issue 18

Taken on October 13, 1927, these five men headed one of the largest raids on an illegal liquor manufacturing operation in Orleans County. Pictured from left to right are NYS Trooper J. P. Fisher, Undersheriff Lawrence Higley, Sheriff Ross Hollenbeck, Deputy Matthew McGlen, and NYS Trooper B. L. DeBrine; the plate on the motorcycle shows that the men were stationed at the Troop A barracks in Batavia.

Just after midnight on the 13th of October, police surrounded the abandoned canning factory once owned by Thomas Page at the corner of King Street and West Avenue. Upon entering the building they located one the largest alcohol stills ever seen in the area, allowing for the manufacture of over 5,000 gallons of moonshine liquor. Also seized was a truck carrying 205 gallons of alcohol stored in 5 gallon cans, which was to be shipped to Rochester that night.

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Thomas Page Canning Factory, abandoned approximately two years before the raid occurred.

Giuseppe Gagliano, Tony Gagliano, Joseph Mineo, James Mineo, and Joseph Lomeo all of Utica were taken into custody and arraigned in front of U.S. Commissioner Cyrus Phillips at Rochester. The men refused to provide any information about the illegal operation but claimed that they were hired by Charles Day of Rochester, a man they had never met before, to operate the still. All five were released from custody on $10,000 bail each.

Federal officers estimated the seizure of equipment in excess of $50,000 and the total value of the liquor and raw materials at nearly $200,000, roughly $3.5 million today.

LiquorStill

The still, pictured here, was confiscated and destroyed by federal agents following the raid.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the abandoned canning factory became the central location for another large distilling operation when federal officers in cooperation with local police raided the site in October of 1930. At that point, the still inside was capable of manufacturing over 1,000 gallons of alcohol each day and multiple storage vats were discovered alongside the 5,000 gallon still. Moonshiners were shipping the alcohol by truck to Buffalo where it was loaded on railcars and distributed throughout the region.

Lawrence Higley would later serve as Orleans County Sheriff and Matthew McGlen eventually found himself working for the federal government as a U.S. Customs and Border Agent. Naturally, this raid was quite the notch in their belts.

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