Pair accused of making moonshine in Midway

April 22, 2013
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Part of the moonshine operation busted by police
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A bit of the finished product
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Part of the moonshine operation
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Jars for moonshine line a shelf

McDonald police busted two alleged moonshine makers in Midway after getting a complaint earlier this month from neighbors about the suspected operation.

Matthew A. Zirwas III, 33, of Carnegie, and Matthew B. Kirks, 29, of 108 James Way, were reportedly making the moonshine in a shed adjacent to Kirks’ mobile home.

Police were initially called April 11 by residents of Walnut Street who reported their neighbors were burning items inside a shed.

One neighbor believed they were making moonshine after seeing a man carrying Mason jars from the shed and placing them in a vehicle.

When police approached the shed, they said one officer could smell a strong odor of burning alcohol and heard what sounded like a high-powered burner inside the building.

Through the open door, police said they could see two men, identified as Zirwas and Kirks, operating what appeared to be an ethanol or moonshine distillery. Both men were asked to step out, although Kirks did go back inside to shut off the device out of safety concerns, police said.

Police said they could see two 15.5-gallon beer kegs that were connected by copper lines. A propane tank with two burners was under one of the kegs.

After advising Kirks of his rights, police said they asked him what he was making, and the Midway man admitted he was making moonshine. Police say Zirwas also confessed.

A Blackberry cellphone confiscated by police displayed a web page about “How to make banana brandy moonshine.” Police said they found seven Mason jars containing a mixture of bananas and yeast.

Among the other items confiscated by police were empty Mason jars, copper tubing, a laser thermo meter, a bag of “Hillbilly Stills” citric acid powder and pint and quart jars of moonshine.

Zirwas and Kirks were charged by McDonald police with five counts of reckless endangerment and one count each of failure to have a license to make liquor, illegal possession of liquor, disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana.

The charges will be sent by summons from the office of District Judge Gary Havelka. A preliminary hearing is tentatively set for May 23.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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