May 19, 2015 / 9:30 PM / 4 years ago

Former security guard accused of aiding Kentucky bourbon theft ring

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A former security guard for a Kentucky distillery was indicted on Tuesday for looking the other way while thieves stole rare bourbons and other expensive whiskeys, prosecutors said.

Leslie Wright, 34, a former security guard for Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, received $800 for allowing members of a crime ring to steal a total of 11 stainless steel barrels of spirits, prosecutors said.

At least one of the barrels contained Eagle Rare, a 17-year-old bourbon worth about $500 a gallon, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Zach Becker said. Wright helped on two occasions, he said.

Wright was charged with complicity to receiving stolen property valued at more than $10,000. Nine other people were charged in the conspiracy last month.

Prosecutors say the scheme involved a group of people who knew each other through softball and relied on workers at Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries who had been stealing whiskey for at least seven years.

Officials believe the liquor stolen from both distilleries was valued at more than $100,000.

Besides Eagle Rare, other valuable bourbons stolen include bottles of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, which can cost more than $1,000 a bottle on the secondary market.

Two men have agreed to plead guilty in exchange for their cooperation.

Wright’s indictment did not stem from the plea agreements but from a tip from someone at Buffalo Trace. When Franklin County Sheriff’s detectives contacted Wright, she confessed, Becker said.

He said one steel barrel and the contents of another have been recovered during the course of the ongoing investigation.

“I do anticipate there being further indictments sought,” Becker said.

Bourbon is a $3 billion industry in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. The state produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply.

Wright is no longer employed at Buffalo Trace, Becker said. A Buffalo Trace spokeswoman did not return requests for comment.

Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Eric Beech

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