FRANKFORT — A former security guard at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort pleaded guilty Friday in the much-publicized bourbon theft case.
Leslie Wright, 35, of Frankfort, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of criminal facilitation to receive stolen property over $10,000. That is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. She entered the plea on the day she was to be arraigned.
Prosecutors say Wright was paid $500 on one occasion and $300 on another to look the other way as Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger and another man stole 11 stainless-steel barrels from Buffalo Trace.
Wright told investigators that the thefts occurred during "ghost tours" at the distillery, when the public is allowed on the property on certain evenings to hear ghost tales.
Wright, who had worked at Buffalo Trace about two years, told investigators that Curtsinger, a senior employee, told her that he was taking empty steel barrels for scrap.
But one of the barrels recovered by the Franklin County sheriff's office contained 23 gallons of Eagle Rare 17-year-old bourbon that was worth $12,000.
Wright was the 10th person indicted and the third to plead guilty in the case involving a theft ring charged with stealing more than $100,000 of bourbon from Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey in Anderson County. Unlike the other defendants, she was not indicted as being part of an organized criminal syndicate.
In May, 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.
Curtsinger, 45, has been described by authorities as the central figure in the theft ring, which was also allegedly involved in the trafficking of anabolic steroids.
Under her plea agreement, Wright agreed to testify at Curtsinger's trial.
"I think she will make a very good witness in front of a jury," said Josian Passalacqua, Wright's attorney. "She'll testify truthfully that he (Curtsinger) came in on several occasions and left in a pickup truck."
Prosecutors will take no position on probation for Wright. However, if she fails to fully cooperate in the continued investigation and prosecution of the other defendants, prosecutors will oppose probation.
Wright won't be sentenced until prosecution of the other defendants is finished.
Two other people connected with the bourbon-theft ring pleaded guilty in May.
Shaun Ballard, 31, of Richmond, and Ronnie Lee Hubbard, 37, of Georgetown, agreed to testify at the trial or trials of co-defendants.
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 a year in jail.