A Martinez man is in custody and more than 40 assault rifles, grenade launchers, and silencers confiscated after Alcoholic Beverage Control agents conducted an undercover investigation into reports that liquor was being illegally distilled at a Concord storefront.
In a press release issued by the ABC, agents reported arresting Sterling Hartwell Albert, 53, of Martinez at his business and on an arrest warrant secured by the ABC.
Hartwell was arrested for possessing a still, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of selling alcoholic beverages without a license. Additional felony charges were added for possessing illegal and unregistered firearms after a cache of more than 40 weapons was allegedly uncovered in Albert’s Martinez home.
It was not disclosed when the warrants were served or when the arrest was made.
Agents reported that they had been investigating a storefront at 5052 Forni Drive, Suite C in Concord after receiving a complaint that rum and whisky were being manufactured and sold illegally at the property.
Search warrants were secured for both the suspect’s home and business, according to the release. The firearms were seized and turned over to the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms Task Force.
Possession of unregistered stills and the production of distilled spirits without a federal permit and without payment of tax are federal felony offenses which may result in the seizure and forfeiture of land and other property associated with the illegal activity, the ABC reported.
Stills are potentially explosive and can pose a threat to public safety, and spirits distilled illegally may also not be safe to consume.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Team, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms Task Force participated in the investigation.