The greatest whiskey heist of the past 25 years—or at least the greatest whiskey heist of the past 25 years I am thinking of right now—may have been solved: On Tuesday, a Franklin County, Kentucky, grand jury indicted nine people in connection with the theft of at least $100,000 worth of bourbon, including 65 cases of the rare and highly valued Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve.
The criminal syndicate was allegedly lead by Gilbert Thomas Curtsinger. The 45-year-old Curtsinger, along with his father, mother-in-law, and seven others, reportedly nabbed at least 15 barrels of whiskey—including Wild Turkey, Eagle Rare, and Buffalo Trace—in addition to the missing cases of Pappy Van Winkle, which, on their own, are valued at more than $30,000; all together, authorities said the stolen whiskey was worth more than $100,000.
Sheriff Pat Melton told reporters at a press conference today that three of the defendants—two of whom, including Curtsinger, worked at the Buffalo Trace distillery and one of whom worked at Wild Turkey—stole the barrels and cases of Pappy over a period of about seven years.
The case, Melton said, began as an investigation into an illegal steroid ring until evidence from the Attorney General’s cyber-crime unit and tips from the community linked the suspects to bourbon theft.
“How many people do you know that have a barrel of bourbon at their house?” he asked at the conference.
The alleged thieves—identified as Julie Curtsinger, Mark Searcy, Ronnie Lee Hubbard, Dusty Adkins, Christopher Preston, Joshua Preston, Robert McKinney, and Shawn Ballard—met while playing sports, according to Melton.
“This all came together through softball,” he said.
As for the whiskey, the 25 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle that were recovered—the rest was sold—will likely be returned to the Van Winkle family; the barrels of whiskey, sadly, will be destroyed for sanitation reasons.
But was the Pappy Van Winkle recovered the same that went missing during the mysterious bourbon heist—known as Pappygate—of fall 2013? Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Zachary Becker said it’s possible, though he told the Courier-Journal that’s “more for Buffalo Trace to figure out and their inventory issues.”