Elaborate Wine Heist Unravels

Seattle police track down 2.5K bottles of stolen wine

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 12, 2013 8:57 AM CST

(Newser) – Give thanks, oenophiles: An "elaborate" Thanksgiving Day wine heist has met its end, after Seattle police on Tuesday recovered most if not all of the 2,500 stolen bottles, valued at $648,000. Kindly, the thieves apparently kept the 200 cases safe in a "temperature controlled environment" at a Sodo storage facility less than a mile from where the theft took place, the Seattle Times reports. "While we are still doing an inventory to make sure it's all there" (that's no small feat; every bottle has to be photographed and entered into evidence) "the volume recovered makes us eager with anticipation," says the owner of Esquin Wine & Spirits, who called the theft "something out of Ocean's 11."

Two men disabled motion detectors, painted over surveillance cameras, broke into private storage lockers where they "cherry picked" wine from France and Italy, and tampered with gas lines in a bid to start a fire after their exit, the owner tells KIRO TV. But Samuel Harris and Luke Thesing allegedly weren't Ocean's 11 enough: One of the cameras wasn't completely painted over, and staff IDed Harris, who had rented a storage unit of his own in October; a Lowe's receipt led police to video footage of Thesing shopping for supplies with Harris. The two have been charged with attempted arson, burglary, and theft, but those charges may not be all they have to worry about: A San Francisco wine consultant says he bought $100,000 worth of wine from Harris and another man this spring, a few months after a big wine theft in the area. Police are investigating if the two cases are related. (Another recent wine find: the oldest wine cellar on record.)

The Esquin Wine Merchants store where the theft happened.
The Esquin Wine Merchants store where the theft happened.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The Esquin Wine Merchants store is shown Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Seattle.
The Esquin Wine Merchants store is shown Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Wine bottles at an auction preview shown on Tuesday May 28, 2013.
Wine bottles at an auction preview shown on Tuesday May 28, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Wine bottles at an auction preview shown on Tuesday May 28, 2013.
Wine bottles at an auction preview shown on Tuesday May 28, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
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