(Big) House of Bourbon

November 3rd, 2015 by Attorney Dan Carman

Ky Bourbon Theft Ring

Ask any non-Kentucky native what they associate with our beautiful state and you’re likely to hear the words “horses,” “Wildcats,” or “bourbon.” A type of whiskey, bourbon is a barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn. With small distilleries popping up every day alongside powerhouses like Jim Beam and Wild Turkey, it is estimated that our state produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply and that the number of bourbon barrels aging in the Bluegrass state outnumbers the state’s population. Bourbon is a $3 billion signature industry in Kentucky, generating 15,400 jobs, with an annual payroll of $707 million.

So, when bottles and barrels started to go missing in 2008, it got a lot of attention. Over a seven-year period, it is estimated that $100,000 worth of bourbon was stolen, including Wild Turkey, Pappy Van Winkle, and Eagle Rare brands. In April, the thefts resulted in nine people being indicted on charges of engaging in organized crime as members of a criminal syndicate. Prosecutors say the scheme was led by rogue workers who used their knowledge of the security measures followed by the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries. Depending on the type and age of the whiskey, officials claim most of the stolen barrels were worth $3,000 to $6,000, but the theft ring sold them for $1,200 to $1,500 apiece. Although some of the stolen bourbon was recovered, state law mandates that it must be destroyed after the criminal case is finished because its whereabouts, contents, and handling could not be vouched for to consumers.

You don’t have to be a member of an infamous gang to be charged with organized crime.

You don’t even have to know the identities of the other participants in the alleged crime. All that is required for the state to charge you with organized crime is evidence that three or more people have collaborated in carrying out a criminal activity. And those people then become your co-defendants – capable of being offered a plea deal in exchange for their testimony. For example, two of the defendants in the bourbon theft ring pleaded guilty in May to an amended misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to receive stolen property worth more than $10,000. Both agreed to cooperate against the remaining defendants and were recommended to receive one-year sentences.

It can be quite easy to become tied up in organized crime simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you need help constructing a solid defense against charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, or if you have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.