Kentucky indicts nine, Police say gang stole bourbon by the barrel, including rare Pappy

Updated 4:41 PM., with new information from lead prosecutor in case. 

Here's what we know about the indictment Tuesday of nine people on felony charges in Kentucky involving the theft of thousands of dollars' worth of rare bourbon. 

* Eight men and one woman were indicted Tuesday on felony charges. They are alleged to be part of a wide-ranging syndicate centered in Franklin County, the seat of the state capital Frankfort, but spread throughout the Commonwealth. 

* The specific charged deal with stealing 17 barrels of whiskey. Most of those barrels were stolen from the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky. Five were Russell's Reserve.       

* However, also recovered were 20 to 25 cases of whiskey made by Buffalo Trace, thought to be the missing Pappy from the 2013 heist that made national headlines. Also recovered, a single stainless steel barrel congaing 23 gallons of 17-year old Eagle Rare bourbon, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Zach Becker, who led the prosecution for the Franklin County prosecutor's office, said that juice was worth between $11,000 to $12,000 by itself. 

* Two of those indicted work at Buffalo Trace, and one for Wild Turkey, Becker said. They apparently held rank-and-file jobs at the distilleries. Becker said it's not clear exactly how they used their status as employees to steal the bourbon. "But it's clear they had daily contact with the bourbon, and exploited the mental weaknesses of the security there and the inventory."

* There is still plenty of missing Pappy Van Winkle. In 2013, 65 cases of the rare, wheat-forward, bourbon was reported stolen. A year later, The Courier-Journal's bourbon and horse racing reporter Greg Hall asked: Who stole the Pappy: The Mystery Continues? 

* Becker: "I can't confirm that this bourbon is all of the Pappy Van Winkle that was reported missing in 2013."

* The break in the case came after five barrels were discovered behind Gilbert Toby Curtsinger's house in Frankfort in March, Becker said. "There were numerous breaks after that, as we were able to do forensic analysis on the text messages and phone logs on some of the characters of interest cell phones. In addition, we were contacted by many people who believed they had legitimately bought Pappy Van Winkle and volunteered their stolen bourbon."

* Experts from Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Jim Beam — the latter, merely confirming that none of the barrels were theirs — met with prosecutors to examine the stolen bourbon, and were able to confirm that it was Wild Turkey and Pappy Van Winkle. 

* The conspiracy is much larger than just the nine people indicted, Becker said. "Yes, it was bourbon," Becker said. "But we had very very large group of people — a lot of people — involved in its theft and sale. And there were 1 or 2 who, arguably, were only involved in the steroids aspect of it." 

* Many others, Becker said, have agreed to testify and have not been indicted, but were involved. But it was the nine who were most heavily involved. "All nine were involved in a large degree," he said. "There were either involved in the theft, sales or as middle-men making arrangements. Then there was the steroid element."

* Becker said Curtsinger of Frankfort, 45, who was arrested in March after the barrels were found behind his house, was the leader of the ring. "Mr. Curtsinger connected all the dots and arranged for these things to happen," Becker said. 

* Sales of the stolen bourbon touched communities throughout the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, from Frankfort to nearby Lexington, as well as to Scott County, Laurel County and beyond. Most of the sales were conducted by word of mouth, Becker said, and most of the people who bought the bottles did not know they were stolen. 

* In a press conference Tuesday, Franklin County's sheriff choked up when discussing how seriously his officers had taken the case of the missing bourbon. (See WDRB report of the press conference here.) 


Michael Lindenberger

Michael Lindenberger is a 2012-13 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, where he will spend a year developing a business model for blogs that looks beyond advertising and subscriptions for revenue. He is on leave from The Dallas Morning News, where he is a senior reporter writing about the nexus between the politics and policy of transportation on the local, state and national level. He is founder and co-author with Rodger Jones of the Dallas Transportation Blog. His print journalism was recognized in 2012 as the previous year's best example at The News of work that brings perspective, interpretation and analysis to bear on difficult topics. Also in 2012, the newspaper nominated his work for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. A 2006 graduate of the night program at Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, Michael also is a contributing national legal affairs writer for and a former adjunct professor of media law at the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism. His work has appeared in newspapers, wire reports and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, Reuters, The ABA Journal, Robb Report Magazine and others.