Major Bourbon Theft Syndicate Busted In Kentucky

| April 21, 2015

In a major follow up to a story around the alleged theft of thousands of dollars worth of Wild Turkey bourbon in barrels last month, Franklin County, Kentucky law officials today said nine people were indicted in what’s being described as a large scale bourbon theft operation estimated to be in the six figure dollar range. It is also possible the legendary Pappy Van Winkle bottle theft from some years ago may have been tied to some of these same whiskey thieves. All in all, it is quite a story of the inside job.

If you’ll recall, up to $30,000 in missing Wild Turkey bourbon was found behind the shed of a local home in March. At the time Gilbert T. Curtsinger, 45, of Frankfort, Kentucky, and a Buffalo Trace employee, was charged with the stolen property. After that, a deeper investigation revealed this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of the recovered Wild Turkey barrels filled with bourbon. (image via Franklin County Sheriff)

Some of the recovered Wild Turkey barrels filled with bourbon. (image via Franklin County Sheriff)`

According to the Franklin County Sherrif’s office, Curtsinger allegedly led a so-called “organized criminal syndicate” out of his home, from which he “participated in the theft and distribution of stolen bourbon and also imported and distributed anabolic steroids.” Also tied to this syndicate was one Mark Searcy, a Wild Turkey employee, who allegedly worked alongside Curtsinger “to steal and distribute bottles, cases and barrels of bourbon taken from both of their employers.”

The two, having allegedly stolen the barrels of bourbon from Wild Turkey, then made use of connections Curtsinger had from playing softball around Kentucky to sell them. He had apparently been at this since January 2008, and through the years had also reportedly been involved in

numerous thefts of Pappy Van Winkle, as well as Eagle Rare bourbon, both in bottles and barrels. He distributed these stolen items through his softball network as well.

The Associated Press reported the investigation tied together the theft of the Wild Turkey barrels with “the disappearance of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon dating back to 2008 or 2009.” This could very well be at least part of the missing PappyGate bourbon from 2013 but, as the Courier-Journel noted, an assistant Commonwealth attorney said “that ‘is more for Buffalo Trace to figure out and their inventory issues.'” As for the dollar amount of these thefts, the Wall Street Journal mentioned the amount of “over $100,000” in stolen bourbon being recovered. DAMM!

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The sheriff’s office said seven others allegedly took part in this syndicate as well, including Julie Curtsinger, Ronnie Lee Hubbard, Shawn Ballard, Dustin Adkins, Joshua Preston, Christopher Preston and Robert McKinney. The investigation remains open for the time being and more leads are said to be getting checked out right now, which could result in more charges being made.

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Nino Kilgore-Marchetti

Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...