Franklin County

Security guard indicted in bourbon thefts that allegedly happened during 'ghost tours'

Franklin Co. Sheriff Pat Melton talked about indictments in a whiskey theft ring during an afternoon news conference at the Franklin Co. Sheriff's office in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Nine people were indicted and are charged with engaging in organized crime as members of a criminal syndicate. The theft targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries and included Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
Franklin Co. Sheriff Pat Melton talked about indictments in a whiskey theft ring during an afternoon news conference at the Franklin Co. Sheriff's office in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Nine people were indicted and are charged with engaging in organized crime as members of a criminal syndicate. The theft targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries and included Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

A former security guard at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort was indicted Tuesday as a result of the continuing investigation into bourbon thefts.

Leslie Wright, 34, of Frankfort, is the 10th person indicted in connection with the Central Kentucky theft ring, which was also allegedly involved in the trafficking of anabolic steroids. The ring was responsible for more than $100,000 in bourbon thefts from Buffalo Trace and from Wild Turkey in Anderson County, authorities have said.

A Franklin County grand jury indicted Wright on a charge of complicity to receiving stolen property over $10,000. That is a class C felony punishable by five to 10 years in prison, said Zach Becker, assistant commonwealth's attorney in Franklin County.

Wright was paid a total of $800 by Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger to "essentially look the other way" as Curtsinger and another man stole 11 stainless-steel barrels from Buffalo Trace on two separate occasions, Becker said.

"She ended up confessing all this in a recorded interview" with the Franklin County sheriff's office, Becker said. Her interview "was entirely consistent" with information provided by others, Becker said.

Wright told the sheriff's office that the thefts occurred during ghost tours at Buffalo Trace, when the public is allowed on the property on certain evenings of the year to hear ghost tales.

"It's supposed to be haunted down there," Becker said.

Wright's participation was unknown until last week, Becker said.

Wright said Curtsinger, a senior Buffalo Trace employee, told her that he was taking empty steel barrels for scrap, Becker said.

"She said 'fine' and took the money in exchange for permitting that to happen," Becker said.

Wright allegedly received $500 on one occasion when Curtsinger and Austin Johnson, another Buffalo Trace employee, went to Building 3 and used a forklift to steal six barrels. On another occasion, Wright was paid $300 as Curtsinger and Johnson took five more barrels.

On each occasion, the metal barrels were taken to a home on Scruggs Lane in Frankfort for safekeeping, according to court documents.

One of the stainless-steel barrels was recovered, Becker said. It contained 23 gallons of Eagle Rare 17-year-old bourbon that was worth $12,000, he said.

Another barrel was sold to a person in Lexington, who had rebottled its contents. That person gave a voluntary statement to investigators and turned over the remaining bourbon, Becker said.

Curtsinger, 45, of Frankfort, has been described by authorities as the ringleader in the theft ring. Johnson has not been charged but has cooperated with the investigation, Becker said.

Two people connected with the bourbon theft ring pleaded guilty earlier this month in Frankfort.

Under plea deals, Shaun Ballard, 31, of Richmond, and Ronnie Lee Hubbard, 37, of Georgetown, agreed to testify at the trial or trials of seven other co-defendants who were indicted in April. Ballard and Hubbard 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.

Becker said he anticipates that more indictments will be sought. "All I can say is the Franklin County sheriff's office is actively investigating further leads," he said.

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