Stolen wine recovered from nearby Sodo storage site
The stolen wine was recovered Tuesday after Seattle police officers served a search warrant at a storage and manufacturing facility less than a mile away from Esquin Wine & Spirits, according to police.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle police have recovered a “substantial” amount of wine stolen during an elaborate Thanksgiving Day heist from a Sodo wine-storage business.
The wine was recovered Tuesday after officers served a search warrant at a storage and manufacturing facility less than a mile away from Esquin Wine & Spirits, according to police. They did not release the name of the facility.
Police say it appears the wine had been kept in a “temperature-controlled environment.” There was some concern that the wine, if not properly stored, could be damaged during the recent spate of subfreezing weather.
Burglary detectives are now going through the painstaking process of entering 2,500 bottles of wine into evidence and figuring out to whom each bottle belongs, police said. Some owners may not even be aware their wine-storage units were among those robbed.
It’s unclear what led police to the manufacturing and storage facility where the wine was found. A call to the department’s media office seeking additional information was not returned Wednesday afternoon.
Dan Miller, a spokesman for Esquin, said last week the company was offering $20,000 for information that leads to the “safe recovery of the wine.”
Chuck LeFever, owner of Esquin, issued a statement: “Words can’t express how thrilled we are that the wine stolen from our facility on Thanksgiving Day has been safely recovered. While we are still doing an inventory to make sure it’s all there, the volume recovered makes us eager with anticipation and we can’t wait to share the good news with our customers.”
Thieves made off with more than 200 cases of wine, valued at $648,000, from Esquin Wine & Spirits on Nov. 28.
Charged with attempted first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and second-degree theft in connection with the thefts are Luke Thesing, 35, and Samuel Harris, 34. Thesing works as a plumber for Harris’ plumbing company, charging papers say.
The men are each being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Police Wednesday described Harris and Thesing as “common thieves,” saying detectives don’t consider the men to be wine connoisseurs. Detectives are still working to figure out what the two planned to do with the wine and if anyone else was involved in the theft.
Harris and Thesing are accused of disabling motion detectors, spray-painting over surveillance cameras and sawing through plasterboard to access vintages in private storage lockers, and carting them away. They are also accused of tampering with gas lines that could have caused a big explosion had the gas reached an open flame, charging papers say.
Despite efforts to cover up the theft, one of the Esquin cameras wasn’t completely painted over and employees at the wine facility were able to identify Harris, who used his name and address on forms to rent a wine-storage unit, charging papers say.
The identity of his alleged accomplice, however, remained a mystery until last week, according to charging papers. Police found receipts to home-improvement stores among Harris’ belongings when he was booked, the papers say.
Based on the dates and times on those receipts, detectives were able to get surveillance footage from a Lowe’s store on Rainier Avenue South that showed Harris and Thesing purchasing supplies, the papers say.
A shipping label found in Harris’ wine-storage locker led detectives to a San Francisco wine consultant, who told police he purchased $100,000 of wine from Harris and another man in April or May, charging papers say. Through an online search, Detective Don Jones determined there had been a large wine theft in the Bay Area in March, the papers say.
Police in Seattle are comparing notes with their counterparts in San Francisco to see if there’s a link between the thefts.
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org