It is not often you hear about a workplace theft that piques your interest. It is rarer when charges related to that theft also include illegal distribution of anabolic steroids. And when the theft is expensive Bourbon named “Pappy Van Winkle”; thereby assuring a story about weirdly named booze and illegal drugs, well, then you really have something.
Something for the Cluttered Desk, anyway.
A 26-year employee of Buffalo Trace distillery, who worked on the loading docks, plead guilty this week to leading a theft ring that stole over $100,000 worth of liquor from two distilleries in Kentucky. He apparently distributed the bourbon through a “syndicate” that included members of his recreational softball team.
I suppose authorities were clued in when the softball team consistently cheered strike outs by their members, and ran the wrong way around the bases when they managed to connect with the ball.
The plea agreement included “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).” Also involved were the thefts of multiple barrels of Wild Turkey 101 and Russell's Reserve, each valued at approximately $3,000. The ringleader/employee/bestest softball team member ever would allegedly load them in his pickup, cover them with a tarp, and drive them around town selling them to customers.
He is said to have worn his Buffalo Trace work shirt during these transactions. The customers, for their part, all claim to have believed they were conducting official business with the distillery.
Sure, I can see that. It harkens back to a simpler time. I recall fondly the days when the Wild Turkey Bourbon Man would drop a barrel or two of not quite ready for prime-time booze off at my parents' house on his weekly route. They had a box on the front porch, next to and slightly larger than the box that the milkman used. These transactions were just a throwback to a time of more personalized service. There is nothing unusual about buying a barrel of bourbon, for cash and from under a tarp in the back of a pickup in your driveway. Nothing unusual at all.
During subsequent raids related to the investigation, authorities found anabolic steroids and material related to the injection and use of those substances.
It does sound like quite the criminal enterprise. A group of more than a dozen people, buffed up to beat the band, brimming with bourbon and subject to roid rage. What could possibly go wrong with that? I will bet the organizations workers' comp premiums were extraordinarily high.
OK, we know that, as a criminal enterprise, they probably didn't have workers' comp. However, by mentioning the possibility, I can avoid the occasional criticism that I write a workers' comp blog post that sometimes has nothing to do with workers' comp.
Clever, isn't it?
I understand that this entire enterprise came crashing down after authorities received a tip. I have no idea what that tip was. It could have been, “Hey, this softball team can't run in a straight line, and they become enraged and beat the crap out of the opposing team when they lose.” Or it could have been, “There is some guy selling barrels of bourbon from a tarp shrouded pickup to my neighbor in his driveway.” I have no idea. What I am sure of, however, is that there are at least two distilleries in Kentucky who need to tighten up their inventory control systems. It shouldn't take a tip from a tee-totaling neighbor to let you know that barrels of your product are driving away from your facility.
As for the participants in this unique criminal enterprise, most of them have pled out for reduced sentences. The ringleader is facing up to 15 years in prison for his part in the scheme. He should look at the bright side; he won't have a door to door bourbon route anymore, but he will at least have access to a gym.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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