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Five plead not guilty in Bourbon theft case

Five members of a suspected crime ring accused of pilfering more than US$100,000 worth of Bourbon in Kentucky have pleaded not guilty in the case against them.

Buffalo Trace
The suspected leader of a crime ring that orchestrated the high profile theft of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon from the Buffalo Trace Distillery has pleaded not guilty

Among those who entered not guilty pleas at a Kentucky court on Friday was Gilbert Curtsinger – a former Buffalo Trace Distillery worker who authorities believe to be the “ring leader” of a criminal syndicate.

In April this year nine people were charged with involvement in the theft of more than US$100,000 worth of Bourbon over several years.

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 Curtsinger.

This theft was then linked to US$26,000 worth of rare Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon that was lifted from the Buffalo Trace in 2013.

Reuters now reports that Curtsinger, along with his wife Julie, her father, Robert McKinney; Christopher Preston; and Joshua Preston have all pleaded not guilty.

Kevin Fox, lawyer for Julie Curtsinger, said she was “unaware” of the five Wild Turkey barrels lay hidden behind her shed.

Wild Turkey Distillery worker Mark Searcy and Dusty Adkins are scheduled to enter pleas later this week. Two members of the accused group, Michael Shaun Ballard and Ronnie Lee Hubbard, have already pleaded guilty to amended charges in exchange for co-operating with investigators.

Earlier this month, Leslie Wright, a former security guard for Buffalo Trace, admitted taking payment to “turn a blind eye” as barrels were stolen from the distillery.

The case continues.

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