The ringleader of the "Pappygate" rare bourbon heist was sentenced Friday in Frankfort to 15 years in prison.
A 26-year employee of Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger pleaded guilty last year to stealing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon along with bourbon from Wild Turkey Distillery in Anderson County.
Curtsinger was indicted in 2015 on charges of operating a criminal syndicate that trafficked in bourbon and anabolic steroids. His wife, Julie, and eight other people were also indicted.
The case drew national attention from The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
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"What we have here is a multifaceted crime ring, with three separate categories — Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and steroids aspects," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Zachary Becker said in 2015. "The common link between all these categories is Mr. Curtsinger, who was centrally involved in every criminal aspect of this criminal syndicate."
In 2013, 65 cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, which perhaps is the most unobtainable and expensive bourbon in the world, were reported stolen. Pappy Van Winkle Rye also was taken. The total value of the stolen goods was put at $26,025, but the street price of the bourbon was estimated to be significantly higher.
The investigation dragged on for months without an arrest until March 2015 when an anonymous tip led the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to Curtsinger's home in Franklin County where five full barrels of bourbon were found behind his home. The barrels held bourbon intended to become Wild Turkey 101 and Russell’s Reserve (a bourbon aged 10 years).
A detective for the sheriff’s office said in 2015 that Curtsinger would load barrels into his black pickup truck, cover them with a tarp, and take them to potential buyers, all while dressed in his green Buffalo Trace shirt.
At least 18 barrels of bourbon from Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace and 25 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle were initially recovered by authorities. Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said customers would pay $1,000 to $1,500 for a barrel. Most barrels would have been worth $3,000 to $6,000 to the distilleries. However, the Eagle Rare in the steel barrel would be worth $11,000 to $12,000, Melton said.
Curtsinger eventually pleaded guilty in criminal activity that resulted in the theft and distribution of 28 bottles of Pappy and 20 cases of Pappy (12 bottles per case), and 20 cases of Eagle Rare bourbon (six bottles per case).
Curtsinger worked on the loading docks at Buffalo Trace and knew the rest of the suspects through a softball league they were involved in, prosecutors said.
Seven others involved in the ring have entered into plea agreements. Christoper Preston had his case dismissed, while Mark Sean Searcy's case is pending in court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.