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Harford winery owner charged with license, tax violations

Agents from the Maryland Comptroller's Office have filed multiple charges against the owner of a Harford County winery after they found the winery was operating without a license, among other alleged violations.

In all, the owner of Legends Vineyard on Asbury Road in Churchville is facing 26 charges of operating a business illegally and allegedly failing to pay alcoholic beverage taxes, according to the Comptroller's Office and court records.

 Ashby Gatch Everhart, 48, of the 500 block of Asbury Road, was charged Thursday with operating a business without a license, selling to individuals and other businesses without a license and several counts involving alleged failure to pay state alcoholic beverage taxes, according to Christine Feldmann, spokesperson for the Comptroller's Office.

The Comptroller's Field Enforcement Division agents served a search and seizure warrant on June 17 at the vineyard, where 154 containers of wine, one container of distilled spirits, $136.97 in U.S. currency and other paraphernalia involved in the manufacturing and sale of alcoholic beverages were seized, Feldmann wrote in an email Friday. Everhart was present at the time of the search, she said.

Everhart's business license previously had been suspended March 21 because he failed to file alcoholic beverage tax returns; the suspension was effective March 21 to April 20, Feldmann said.

During the suspension period and after, the comptroller's office did several checks of the business to determine if he was still selling his products "and found that he was," she said.

According to court records, agents checked the business April 1, April 4, April 15, April 18, June 7 and June 17.

Business licenses involving sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages are typically are renewed May 1, but Everhart's was not because his corporate charter also wasn't renewed, Feldmann said.

Investigators found Everhart was also still making wine after the license renewal lapsed, she said.

"He didn't have a license to make wine, he didn't have a license to sell wine, he didn't have a sales and use license to collect the tax on that wine," Feldmann said. "That's really the bottom line, that no taxes were being collected from the sales."

Such violations are not common, Feldmann said.

"It hurts the other law-abiding businesses. The majority of businesses doing the right thing get hurt when one acts outside the law," she said.

The Maryland wine community has a great reputation and is growing, Feldmann said. When Comptroller Peter Franchot took office almost eight years ago the state had about 25 wineries and today there are about 65.

"So it's growing and they've got a great reputation," she said.

Everhart, who was charged by criminal summons, has a trial date scheduled for Aug. 19 in Harford County District Court.

Messages left on the winery's answering machine Friday were not returned.

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