9 indicted in alleged bourbon heist

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Investigators hope they’ve put a bourbon heist ring out of business.

A grand jury in Frankfort indicted nine people in connection to cases of Pappy van Winkle, worth thousands, that disappeared October 2013 and barrels of bourbon that were stolen from the Wild Turkey Distillery in Anderson County.

The nine indicted are: Gilbert “Toby’ Curtsinger, Julie Curtsinger, Mark Searcy, Ronnie Hubbard, Dusty Adkins, Christopher Preston, Joshua Preston, Robert McKinney and Shawn Ballard.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton says his deputies have been working around the clock since the five barrels of bourbon were found behind Gilbert Curtsinger’s house about a month and a half ago.

Investigators started looking into Curtsinger’s cell phone records and computer hardware which led them to the crime ring.

Sheriff Melton says investigators have recovered about $100,000 worth of the alleged stolen bourbon including Van Winkle family bourbons, Eagle Rare and Wild Turkey.

Beginning in January 2008 and continuing through April 2013, Sherriff Melton believes Gilbert Curtsinger, a long-time employee of Buffalo Trace, led an organized criminal syndicate; stealing and selling bourbon and steroids. The crime ring could have started earlier, according to Sheriff Melton.

Since the bourbon was first reported missing October 2013, Sheriff Melton has said he thought it was an inside job.

Sheriff Melton believes Curtsinger used his position as a loading dock employee and worked with Mark Searcy, who worked in a Wild Trukey Distillery warehouse along with one other employee of Wild Turkey to take the bottles and barrels of bourbon over the course of many years before anyone noticed.

65 cases of Pappy van Winkle were reported missing October 2013.

Sheriff Melton says the three used their connections in a softball league to distribute the alleged stolen bourbon throughout Kentucky. Sheriff Melton says a barrel of bourbon was being sold for $1,200-$1,500. He does not believe any of it crossed state lines but says the bourbon likely was in Franklin, Scott, Harrison and Laurel Counties

Sheriff Melton says others participated in this organized crime ring by taking an active role participating in theft or distribution of stolen bourbon, trafficking or distributing steroids, providing assistance or getting a benefit.

Curtsinger is the only one who had been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon. Arrest warrants were being prepared for the others. Sheriff Melton says he has already been contacted by some of their attorneys.

The investigation is ongoing and Sheriff Melton says more charges are anticipated. Authorities have not expressed any interest in federal charges.

Sheriff Melton says the recovered bourbon is now evidence. After the trial he says the opened bottles and what is left in the barrels will likely have to be destroyed. Sheriff Melton hopes to return the still sealed bottles to the Van Winkle family.

He says it will be up to each distillery any security improvements that are made.

Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey released the following joint statement:

“Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey have been working in full cooperation with the investigation of the Franklin County and Anderson County sheriffs’ offices. We thank the authorities for their efforts on this case and appreciate their swift, thorough detective work to get this in front of the Grand Jury as quickly and as comprehensively as possible. We take this matter very seriously and support the prosecution of anyone found in violation of state of federal government laws related to our businesses. As this is an ongoing investigation, we have no further comments at this time and will refer all questions to Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton.”

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, a two-minute video from Attorney General Jack Conway was played thanking the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for its work and said the cyber crimes unit helped comb through cell phone records and computer hard drives after the initial steroids were discovered.

No word on who, if anyone, gets the $10,000 reward that was offered for information leading to the missing Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

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