By Ely Portilloelyportillo@charlotteobserver.com
A community activist whose Web site says she is devoted to providing disadvantaged children with "supervision and protection from a hazardous social environment" has been arrested for selling moonshine out of her daycare center.
N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement agents arrested Gwendolyn Brown-Johnson, 57, and her husband, Artis Johnson, 64, last Friday at Parkview Community Center, a day-care operation and community foundation off Tuckaseegee Road.
On Monday, Brown-Johnson said she made a "mistake" but was set up by one of her neighbors, who calls her a "snitch" for working with code enforcement in the neighborhood.
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The foundation's Web site says Brown-Johnson incorporated the Parkview Community Foundation in 1997. The group provides after-school programs, distributes food and counsels local youth to avoid drugs and alcohol.
ALE agents say children were in the day-care center when they sent in an undercover agent to buy two gallons of moonshine last week.
"The children were our first concern," said ALE Director John Ledford in a statement.
Agents say they were tipped off by local complaints.
The foundation's Web site said Brown-Johnson, who is the president and CEO, also encourages landlords to evict tenants engaged in drug sales and other criminal activity.
The Parkview Foundation is listed as a nonprofit, but doesn't have to file full financial disclosures because it takes in less than $25,000 per year.
Brown-Johnson has been arrested once before, in 2000, for a drug paraphernalia charge that was later dismissed.
The foundation's Web site claims the group "works closely" with Mecklenburg Department of Social Services "to offer drug and alcohol prevention education" to the children it serves.
A DSS spokeswoman said the agency has no partnership with the foundation and DSS doesn't provide drug and alcohol prevention education.
Also arrested last week was Ervin Preston Finger, an 82-year-old Catawba County man who authorities say produced the moonshine. ALE agents seized more than 80 gallons of moonshine from Finger.
Brown-Johnson offered an explanation when contacted by a reporter.
She said a Gaston County man gave her a package to hold and she loaned him $80. The man told her a woman would come by to repay her and pick up the package.
Brown-Johnson said that a woman did pick up the package and paid her $80 for it - a woman who was working undercover with the ALE.
Brown-Johnson said she didn't know what was in the package but suspected it wasn't legal.
"We made a mistake," she said. "We don't even drink."
She said she believes a vengeful neighbor tipped off authorities and set up the bust.
Now, Brown-Johnson said she fears her work could be destroyed - and children will be the victims. She said the center serves more than 20 children.
"We've had children call us when Daddy has beaten Mommy to a pulp. We have children whose parents sell their food stamps when there's nothing to eat," she said. "I just don't want to get the children involved in any way, shape or form."