SHERIFF: Nine people charged in Kentucky theft ring that stole Pappy Van Winkle bourbon
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nine people have been indicted in a massive theft of Kentucky bourbon according to the Franklin County Sheriff.
The nine suspects include a Wild Turkey employee and two employees of Buffalo Trace Distillery, according to Sheriff Pat Melton.
"This has been an ongoing course of behavior that we, the detectives know of since 2008," Melton said. "This is an ongoing pattern and this is probably the tip of the iceberg."
The thefts include a massive heist of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon that made national headlines in Oct. 2013, some of which has been recovered.
It is estimated that the stolen bourbon is worth more than $100,000 overall.
Authorities say the scheme has been going on for at least seven years and involves thousands of dollars' worth of bourbon -- reportedly more than any one person could drink in a lifetime.
During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Sheriff Melton became emotional as he told reporters about the resources and man-hours that went into apprehending the ring.
"We didn't leave any rock unturned," he said. "These people are very passionate about what they do."
Authorities say 17 wooden barrels of bourbon, 20 cases of Pappy Van Winkle and one stainless steel barrel of Eagle Rare worth $11,000-$12,000 were recovered -- and more stolen bourbon could be out there.
Buyers of the stolen bourbon were typically paying far less than the retail value, according to the sheriff's office. Investigators say they do not believe any of the stolen bourbon was sold on the retail market.
"This has been six weeks that these guys have worked anywhere from 10 to 18 hours a day for six weeks straight -- huge, huge investigation. A lot of hours, a lot of time," Sheriff Melton said.
Pappy Van Winkle representatives came to test the recovered bourbon, officials say. We're told some of the bourbon barrels will have to be destroyed, but that investigators hope the unopened barrels could be returned to the Van Winkle family.
Investigators say the thefts could have been going on for years before anyone noticed.
We're told the indicted individuals acted as a group -- and that they met through a softball league. One of the suspects worked in the loading dock and another hauled bourbon for Wild Turkey.
When asked to provide a ballpark figure for the amount of money made by the perpetrators off of the stolen bourbon, investigators say they estimate it was over $100,000 since 2008.
Last month, detectives arrested 45-year-old Gilbert Curtsinger, an employee of Buffalo Trace Distillery, seizing five barrels of bourbon, 25 firearms, thousands of dollars of cash and illegal steroids.
Officials say the stolen bourbon in that case came from Wild Turkey, a distillery in Anderson County, Kentucky.
Today, Melton said that Curtsinger has been identified as the ringleader of the bourbon theft ring, as has his wife, Julie Curtsinger, who is also facing charges.