Ringleader of criminal gang pleads guilty to $100k Bourbon heist

A former distillery worker at the centre of a Bourbon scandal has pleaded guilty to his part in stealing US$100,000 worth of whiskey from top producers including Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey.

The bourbon stolen over a seven year period was estimated to have been worth $100,000

Gilbert Curtsinger was one of nine members of a criminal gang who were indicted in 2015 over the theft of at least $100,000 worth of Bourbon over a seven-year period, and accused of being part of a syndicate that dealt in stolen Bourbon and anabolic steroids.

Three of those charged worked at the distilleries targeted, including Curtsinger, who was a former employee at Buffalo Trace and was described as the group’s leader.

Curtsinger pleaded guilty to charges including theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property on Wednesday in Franklin County Circuit Court, as reported by the Washington Post, and faces up to 15 years in prison. He admitted to the distribution of 28 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle family bourbons, about 20 cases of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and about 20 cases of Eagle Rare bourbon, as well as barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon.

The whiskey was said to have been distributed through a syndicate that included members of Curtsinger’s recreational softball team, authorities said.

Of the nine indicted, eight have pleaded guilty, with another defendant also a former worker at Buffalo Trace and a third at the Wild Turkey distillery.

Over a seven year period, the crime ring is believed to have stolen vast amounts of Bourbon with the recovered whiskey alone said to be worth at least $100,000, according to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, which included both bottles and barrels. One recovered barrel contained 17-year-old Eagle Rare Bourbon valued at $11,000 to $12,000. Stolen barrels were stashed by the gang until customers were found.

While the thefts went largely undetected, an inquiry was launched in 2013 after 65 cases of Pappy Van Winkle went missing, however authorities said misconduct by the gang could have started as early as January 2008. Produced by Buffalo Trace, Pappy Van Winkle is among the world’s most expensive bourbon.

Curtsinger, 45, was arrested in May 2015 after investigators acting on a tip found five barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon at his home, which led to much of the evidence used to bring charges.

He will be sentenced when the remaining cases are concluded.

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