People will do some pretty crazy things when alcohol is involved, and not just when they’re drinking. When it comes down to it, as fun as it can be to kick back and have a drink or three, alcohol is big business, and big business means big money. There are the TV executives who made big bucks when people tuned in to watch Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Ellen DeGeneres play shot pong against LeBron James; there are the board members who rake in the cash from selling mass-produced beer; and then there’s the wine producers who sell those expensive bottles. And finally, like every other place where there is money to be made, there are the criminals.
Money attracts criminals of all shades and skills to the alcohol business. Some have “Ocean’s 12”-level sophistication; others, not so much. Here are five people who dedicated their lives to the alcohol theft business, from the worst of the bunch to the best.
The Craiglist mini bottle smuggler
Rachel Trevor just wanted to earn a couple extra dollars. Trevor was a flight attendant for Endeavor Air, which is owned by Delta. She stole nips of whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum from the airline. She then sneaked them away, 50 bottles at a time, and sold them on Craigslist for $1 each. By the time she was caught, she’d stolen nearly 1,500 of them. You really can find anything on Craigslist, but if you’re a criminal, that means people can find you, too.
The men who dug deep into some French Laundry
It makes sense that the French Laundry, the fourth most expensive restaurant in the United States, would have some pricey wines. In 2014, $300,000 of fine wine was stolen by Alfred Georgis and Davis Kiryakoz, both from Northern California. The bottles included some of the most expensive in the world, like Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Screaming Eagle. Some of the bottles were found in Greensboro, N.C. by Napa County law enforcement, the Napa Valley Register writes, and the bottles were returned.
When you want to get rich, look to Pappy
Bourbon is to Kentucky as wine is to Napa — from the prestige to the production skill to the people wanting to steal whatever they can. Gilbert Curtsinger and his wife Julie were the bourbon thieves extraordinaire behind a seven-year scheme that ended in some $100,000 in stolen whiskey from 2008 to 2015. The great bourbon heist included more bourbon than a person could drink in an entire lifetime, WDRB writes. At the very least, it included 17 barrels of bourbon, 20 cases of Pappy Van Winkle, and a stainless steel barrel of Eagle Rare. Much of the bourbon had to be destroyed after it was recovered in 2015, but not before a couple Pappy reps got to taste some of the stolen goods.
Stolen water tastes so sweet
In the summer of 2016, two 18-wheeler trailers stocked with 78,528 bottles of SweetWater beer disappeared. The loss came out to around $90,000, but a quarter of the beers were found on the same day nearby. By the next week, almost all the stolen beer was recovered — except for a couple cases. Why steal so many brews?
“We can’t speculate,” Tucker Berta Sarkisian, head of communications at SweetWater, told Men’s Journal. “But maybe someone is just trying to throw one hell of a party.”
No, the thieves didn’t get rich, but they did get a couple free beers and a hell of a story.
Don’t steal the grapes, steal the name
Jeffry James Hill knows what’s in a name. Hill sold wine listed as Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that was definitely not Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. He made off with more than $1.5 million in fake Napa cash before he was arrested in early November 2016 and charged with four counts of wire fraud and four counts of mail fraud, The New York Times reports. With that much money, Hill could have just paid Congress to gerrymander the central California grapes into Napa County. Now he’s facing some serious time — a maximum of 160 years in prison and $2 million in fines.