Polk County deputies arrest 3 in undercover moonshine investigation

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Neighbors were shocked when they learned police believe illegal moonshine was being sold through the Facebook profile of their next door neighbor.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said deputies arrested a woman and two men in connection to the sale of moonshine. 

The sheriff's office said the investigation started after deputies got an anonymous tip on January 12 about Alton Trowell, 31, selling moonshine over Facebook. An undercover detective called the number listed on the profile and talked to Trowell's girlfriend, 31-year-old Christie Comkowycz. 

Comkowycz allegedly offered to sell the detective 192-proof grain alcohol for $20 per pint and negotiated the sale of 12 pints for $240.

She also asked the detective, "are you a cop? Cause I don't want to go to jail."

Deputies said the two arranged to meet in a parking lot. They said Comkowycz and roommate, 20-year-old Dalton Ridlon, got there and showed the liquor, stored in Mason jars, to the detective. 

The undercover officer gave them money and took the jars. Then detectives placed Ridlon and Comkowycz under arrest. 

Detectives said Comkowycz told them Trowell was arrested the night before on unrelated drug charges, but she kept using his cell phone and Facebook profile to sell moonshine - in an effort to raise money for Trowell's bond. 

Detectives said Ridlon told them he brought Comkowycz to the parking lot to protect her. 

Meanwhile, neighbors said they had no idea what was going on in their community. 

"I have no idea where they are getting it from," said neighbor Ray McNulty.

But Polk County sheriff's deputies said they figured that part out, too.

They searched Trowell's residence, where Ridlon and Comkowycz also lived, and seized a five-gallon container of moonshine, which the suspects said they did not make.

Comkowycz told detectives the moonshine came from a person named Rick, who works at Mizkan Distillery in Lake Alfred. Rick was later identified as 48-year-old Richard Lott of Lake Wales.

Detectives began to text Lott, posing as a customer. They say Lott offered to sell the detectives two gallons of 192-proof grain alcohol for $20 per gallon.

Detectives said they went to Lott's workplace and arrested him, with the assistance of the Lake Alfred Police Department.

Lott later told detectives he stole the five-gallon jug of grain alcohol from Mizkan Distillery before it was processed and reduced. Detectives said he knew the alcohol was 192-proof and dangerous to consume.

Detectives said Lott also admitted to trading alcohol for methamphetamie with Comkowycz.

A group of anti-drug activists were outside the Polk County Sheriff's Office and spoke to FOX 13 about the arrests. 

"It'll kill ya! That stuff will send your soul to hell - in a hand basket," activist Thomas Chapman said. 

Alton Trowell was released from jail and spoke with FOX 13 off-camera. He said, "the deputies should be worrying about bigger stuff."

Comkowycz faces three felony charges:

  • Possession of One or More Gallons Illegal Liquor 
  • Conspiracy to Violate Beverage Law
  • Unlawful Possession/Sale/Transportation of Alcohol 

Ridlon faces two felony charges:

  • Conspiracy to Violate Beverage Law
  • Unlawful Possession/Sale/Transportation of Alcohol

Lott faces three felony charges:

  • Use of Two-Way Device to Commit Felony
  • Conspiracy to Violate Beverage Law 
  • Unlawful Possession/Sale/Transportation of Alcohol

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the investigation will continue and charges against Trowell were pending.