The Slatest

Cops Nab Bourbon-Stealing Syndicate That Used a Softball League to Move $100,000 of Whiskey

Barrels of Jim Beam Bourbon on Jan. 13, 2014 in Clermont, Kentucky.  

Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

It doesn’t quite have the panache of a high stakes art heist, but as far as heists go, a high-priced bourbon swindling syndicate has its fair share of glamour. On Tuesday, a Kentucky grand jury put an end to what amounted to a seven-year run of whiskey theft by an organized crime group, with the indictment of nine people and the recovery of $100,000 of pilfered bourbon from Buffalo Trace distillery—maker of the ultra-pricey Pappy Van Winkle bourbon—and the nearby Wild Turkey Distillery.

The thefts ultimately were an inside job, as three of the defendants worked at the distilleries and knew the ins-and-outs of the security systems. “Investigators said that some of the bourbon thefts had gone undetected for years—the indictment refers to unspecified misconduct by the crime ring as early as January 2008—but they became the subject of a high-profile inquiry in 2013, after 65 cases of Pappy Van Winkle vanished,” according to the New York Times. “The Van Winkle brand, which relies on wheat instead of rye and is produced by Buffalo Trace … is among the country’s most expensive bourbons, and the theft spurred a frenzy of speculation and intrigue.”

The mastermind of the syndicate apparently distributed the stolen goods through a finely tuned network of contacts and associates—known as the local softball league. What has your company softball team ever done? Grab pizza and beers after the game? Think a little bigger next time.