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Nevada transportation department worker probed for allegedly selling moonshine

A Nevada Department of Transportation worker who helps test employees suspected of on-the-job substance abuse is under investigation for allegedly selling moonshine out of his government vehicle and office in Las Vegas.

Department spokesman Tony Illia confirmed the agency is investigating the possible illegal sale of bootleg liquor at the office.

“I’m not sure I can give you much more detail because we have to protect the people involved and we have yet to uncover any proof,” he said.

Transportation staff investigated the worker several years ago for a similar complaint, but found it was unsubstantiated. The employee was brewing homemade beer and distributing it as holiday gifts, Illia said. The Review-Journal is not naming the employee because no violations have been proven.

The worker accused of selling the moonshine denied any wrongdoing. He was unaware of the current investigation.

“They’ve already investigated that and those are false accusations,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like that. I was making homemade beer but wasn’t selling it.”

The employee said the accusations probably stem from disgruntled employees who either were not promoted or were the focus of safety problems that he had flagged.

But former and current NDOT employees said the employee has been selling moonshine as strong as 130 proof since at least 2015 and that the previous investigation was mishandled by supervisors.

Kurt Garrett, a NDOT safety specialist who retired in 2015, said he and others informed a department manager several years ago. The supervisor, who did not respond to a request for comment, merely told the worker to stop selling moonshine, Garrett said. After hearing the sales had resumed, Garrett contacted NDOT director Rudy Malfabon this summer.

“It was a slap in the face of our safety team, bringing an illegal product to work in one of the state cars,” he said. “If someone got into an accident or hurt someone because of (drinking the alcohol) I have a major issue with that.”

It is a misdemeanor to produce alcohol without a license and the worker’s name does not appear in a state licensing database.

Garrett said he bought a jar of the moonshine in June through another employee who still works there. That employee gave Garrett a picture of the jar on NDOT property, which Garrett later sent to Malfabon and the Review-Journal.

The employee, who obtained the liquor for Garrett, confirmed the purchase and the employee’s history of selling it, but declined to be named because he still works for NDOT.

Stout Lawson, a highway maintenance worker who plans to retire at the end of the year, told the Review-Journal that the worker who is under investigation also offered him the liquor about four years ago. The attorney general’s office last month interviewed Lawson and the employee who bought the liquor.

All three former and current employees said discipline at the facility is inconsistent because supervisors protect some while imposing strict punishment on others for minor infractions.

“It was swept under the carpet,” Garrett wrote in an July email to Malfabon, who responded that the matter was “being dealt with.”

Illia, the department spokesman, said he did not know if the attorney general had been involved in the original investigation.

“We take grievances very seriously,” he said. “The state has an unbiased formal process to vet these things.”

Monica Moazez, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an email that the agency does not comment on whether an investigation is underway.

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter.

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