Christine Haughney covers corruption and criminal behavior as part of the Zero Point Zero Production series Food Crimes.
Police in California have arrested two men in connection with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fine wines that were stolen from several shops and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area, including Thomas Keller’s acclaimed Napa County restaurant, the French Laundry.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Alfred Georgis of Mountain View and David Kuryakoz of Modesto were charged with shipping stolen wines out of state dating back to 2013. Georgis and Kuryakoz cannot be faulted for their fine tastes: The stolen wines included bottles of such prestigious labels as Romanée-Conti, Château Lafite, Château Latour and Château Margaux.
The most high-profile of the heists took place at the venerable French Laundry in Yountville on Christmas in 2014. But investigators believe the spree started back in March 2013, when the pair allegedly stole 142 bottles from a San Francisco wine merchant, according to the Napa Valley Register. The duo is also charged with targeting Alexander’s steak house twice.
For months, investigators have said they were closing in on their target; their search extended well beyond French Laundry. Wine-fraud investigators have noted that the French Laundry case mirrored a 2013 case in Seattle involving the city’s oldest wine shop, Esquin Wine Merchants. In that case, the stolen wines were headed to Hong Kong.
An FBI spokesman tells the Chronicle that this may be part of a larger fraud ring.