Two of the nine people connected with the alleged bourbon theft ring that targeted Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries pleaded guilty Wednesday in Frankfort.
Under plea deals reached with the Franklin County commonwealth's attorney's office, Shaun Ballard, 31, of Richmond, and Ronnie Lee Hubbard, 37, of Georgetown, agreed to testify truthfully at the trial or trials of the seven other co-defendants.
Ballard and Hubbard entered their pleas before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Zach Becker said.
Ballard and Hubbard were indicted in April on a charge of engaging in organized crime, a class B felony punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.
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Under plea agreements, they each pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy to receive stolen property over $10,000, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail.
In addition, Becker will take no position on probation for the two men, provided they live up to the terms of the plea deal.
"The two of them have the most important testimony," Becker said Wednesday. "What we have here are two of the main middlemen that (Gilbert) 'Toby' Curtsinger used to distribute both Pappy Van Winkle and barrels of bourbon."
Curtsinger, 45, of Frankfort, a senior employee of Buffalo Trace, has been described by authorities as the ringleader in the theft ring, which also was involved in the trafficking of anabolic steroids. The ring was responsible for more than $100,000 in bourbon thefts, police say.
Ballard and Hubbard did not work at a distillery but made connections through softball games, Becker said.
Hubbard made another statement to the Franklin County sheriff's office Wednesday, Becker said. Without Ballard's cooperation and previous statements, "the full extent of the Pappy Van Winkle thefts and sales with Curtsinger would not have been uncovered," Becker said.
Ballard acted as a middleman for Curtsinger in the sale of stolen bourbon from Buffalo Trace. The plea agreement says Ballard was the middleman in the sale of 20 cases of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and 20 cases of Eagle Rare bourbon to Mike Marriott in Richmond. Curtsinger received about $20,000 for this sale, but Ballard received no compensation "beyond $100 once," the plea agreement says.
Ballard also was present three or four years ago in Richmond when Curtsinger arrived from Frankfort with three barrels of bourbon in the back of his truck. Those barrels were sold to Rick "Smoothie" Profitt for $1,200 to $1,500 each, the plea agreement says.
Curtsinger told Ballard that they were barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon, the plea agreement says.
In December 2014, another unidentified person bought a stainless steel barrel of Eagle Rare bourbon from Curtsinger for $1,500, the plea agreement says.
Hubbard's plea agreement says that he "entered into an ongoing agreement" to obtain full barrels of bourbon from Curtsinger, which Hubbard then sold to numerous people.
From Jan. 1, 2013 to March 11, 2015, Hubbard obtained at least 17 full barrels of stolen bourbon from Curtsinger.
In addition, Hubbard had an agreement with Curtsinger to buy one of the five full barrels of stolen Wild Turkey bourbon discovered in March behind Curtsinger's Franklin County home.
Text messages between Hubbard and Curtsinger were found on Hubbard's cellphone, as well as images of child pornography that were later determined to be present as the result of a malware program on the phone, the plea agreement says.
Curtsinger also is accused of trafficking in anabolic steroids. His wife, Julie Curtsinger, was also indicted.
Becker said he believes more people will be charged in connection with the investigation.
No sentencing date will be scheduled for Ballard and Hubbard until they testify against the other seven, Becker said.
The other seven defendants will be arraigned May 22 in Franklin Circuit Court.