Crime

Accused Pappy Van Winkle bourbon theft leader scheduled to enter plea

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton, with bottles of recovered Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-year-old bourbon in the background, talked about indictments in a theft ring during a news conference April 21, 2015, Frankfort. The thefts targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries and included Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.
Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton, with bottles of recovered Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20-year-old bourbon in the background, talked about indictments in a theft ring during a news conference April 21, 2015, Frankfort. The thefts targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries and included Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. cbertram@herald-leader.com

The so-called “Pappygate” bourbon-heist case appears to be nearing a conclusion.

Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger, the alleged ringleader in the theft of more than $100,000 worth of bourbon from Central Kentucky distilleries, is scheduled to enter a change of plea at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Franklin Circuit Court, Assistant Franklin Commonwealth’s Attorney Zach Becker said in open court Friday.

Curtsinger’s case was on the docket Friday, but his attorney, Whitney Lawson, said there are some details to work out before her client enters a plea.

It’s anticipated that Curtsinger will accept a plea agreement, but details aren’t yet known.

Curtsinger, 47, his wife, Julie, 45, both of Frankfort, and seven other people were indicted in 2015 on charges of operating a criminal syndicate that trafficked in bourbon and anabolic steroids.

The syndicate was allegedly involved in the theft of rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort and of Wild Turkey in Anderson County.

Gilbert Curtsinger, a 26-year Buffalo Trace employee who worked on the loading docks, distributed the bourbon through a syndicate that included members of his recreational softball team.

The heist and resulting criminal case became known as “Pappygate.” It drew national attention from The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Six of the original nine people indicted have accepted plea agreements. Those six have not been sentenced, pending resolution of Gilbert Curtsinger’s case.

Leslie Wright, a 10th defendant who was indicted later, also pleaded guilty in 2015 and has not been sentenced.

Prosecutors say that Wright, a security guard at Buffalo Trace, was paid $500 on one occasion and $300 on another to look the other way as Curtsinger and another man stole 11 stainless-steel barrels from the Frankfort distillery.

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