Husband, wife plead not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts

AP News
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Posted: May 22, 2015 6:34 PM
Husband, wife plead not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — When authorities found five bourbon barrels on the property of a distillery worker accused of leading a long-running whiskey theft ring in Kentucky, his wife and co-defendant was unaware the containers were on their property, her attorney said Friday.

Kevin Fox, the attorney for Julie Curtsinger, said the charges against her appear to be "circumstantial or by implication" because she's married to Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger, described by authorities as the ringleader of the theft ring in bourbon country.

The Curtsingers pleaded not guilty to multiple charges Friday. Both are charged with engaging in organized crime. Gilbert Curtsinger's charges include receiving stolen property over $10,000 and trafficking in a controlled substance. Julie Curtsinger is also charged with complicity to trafficking in a controlled substance and another drug-related charge.

Authorities say the syndicate had dual roles — the theft and sale of bourbon and the trafficking of steroids. The thefts targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries and included such prestigious brands as hard-to-get Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

The thefts date back to 2008 or 2009, authorities said. Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton has estimated the recovered whiskey alone is worth at least $100,000.

Several other people, including Julie Curtsinger's father, Robert McKinney, also face charges. McKinney also pleaded not guilty Friday.

"As far as Julie goes, it's my understanding that the only thing they've got is that she lived in the same house where a lot of the stuff was found," Fox told reporters.

Julie Curtsinger was unaware of the five barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon found by authorities behind a shed on the Curtsinger property, Fox said.

The company behind Wild Turkey said the liquid inside the barrels was slated to become the brand's flagship Wild Turkey 101 product.

Meanwhile, Gilbert Curtsinger's attorney, Whitney True Lawson, indicated during the brief court hearing Friday that she might challenge search warrants used in the case.

She also questioned her client's ability to get a fair trial due to extensive publicity surrounding the case. Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate replied that typically there are potential jurors unaware of pre-trial publicity in high-profile cases.

Two people charged in the bourbon-theft case previously pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Earlier this week, a woman who formerly worked as a security at Buffalo Trace Distillery was indicted in the case.

Prosecutors said Gilbert Curtsinger, a longtime Buffalo Trace employee, allegedly paid the security guard $800 to look the other way on two occasions last December while thousands of dollars' worth of whiskey was spirited away from the distillery in Frankfort.

The one-time security guard, Leslie Wright, is cooperating with authorities, Assistant Franklin County prosecutor Zachary M. Becker has said. Becker also said more indictments are possible.