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Nine charged over Wild Turkey and Pappy thefts

Nine people have been charged with forming a criminal ring that stole more than US$100,000 worth of Bourbon, allegedly orchestrating the high profile thefts of Wild Turkey and Pappy Van Winkle casks.

Whisky Fungus Chivas Brothers
Nine people have been accused of forming an organised crime ring which involved the theft of more than US$100,000 worth of Bourbon

A grand jury in Frankfort, Kentucky, has accused the group of lifting supplies over the past seven years, relying on help from workers at two Kentucky distilleries, Reuters reports.

Police uncovered the syndicate, reportedly formed by people who knew each other through softball, after five stolen barrels of Wild Turkey Bourbon worth US$30,000 were discovered in the backyard of Buffalo Trace worker Gilbert Thomas Curtsinger.

Curtsinger, described as the “ring leader” of the group, appeared at Franklin County District Court last month charged with receiving stolen property over US$10,000, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Following investigations by police officers and the state Attorney General’s office, Curtsinger is thought to be part of a long-running organised plot to sell the barrels.

Mark Searcy, who worked at the Wild Turkey Distillery, was also named among the list of accused.

The grand jury also charged Julie Curtsinger, Ronnie Lee Hubbard, Dusty Adkins, Christopher Preston, Joshua Preston, Robert McKinney and Shawn Ballard for engaging in organised crime.

“You don’t expect employees to steal from you,” Sheriff Pat Melton told Reuters. “Obviously, this was a case where you had employees that made some very poor decisions.”

Authorities linked the discovery of the Wild Turkey barrels to the theft of US$26,000 worth of rare Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon – which authorities have long thought to be the result of an inside job.

The theft was discovered in October 2013 after distillery workers noticed a palette of Pappy Van Winkle had been “hollowed out”, with a total of 65 cases missing. Police said at least some recently recovered Bourbon casks could be linked back to the high profile case.

Sheriff Melton added that all recovered Bourbon casks would be destroyed after the case goes to trial, however some unopened bottles could be retuned to their producers.

Pappy Van Winkle is owned by Buffalo Trace, while Wild Turkey is owned by Italian drinks group Gruppo Campari. Neither could be immediately reached for comment.

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