In October 2013, over $100,000 dollars worth of aged Pappy Van Winkle bourbon went missing from Buffalo Trace, a Kentucky distillery. The police interviewed over 100 employees in search of the rare, limited-edition bottles worth more than $1,000 a piece, and the media dubbed the heist “Pappygate.” Still, no suspects were identified. But nearly two years later, a tip was made to the police after a $10,000 reward was put out for any information leading to an arrest in the case. As he tells in Netflix’s Heist, Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger’s home was raided and he was subsequently arrested after a stash of steroids and barrels of stolen bourbon were found on his property. Only he didn’t steal the Pappy, he claims. Not that time, at least.
That isn’t to say that Toby Curtsinger didn’t steal bourbon from Buffalo Trace—he did, undetected, for several years. “If you had an opportunity to steal if you worked in a bank with a vault wide open and nobody seeing you, are you going to do it if you don’t get caught?” he asks in “The Bourbon King” episodes of the series, explaining the widespread culture of theft at Buffalo Trace. But after he began turning a serious profit from the in-demand, rare booze he had access to, bottles became barrels, and his operation grew to include his friends who worked at other distilleries, too. In the docuseries, he explains just how his operation began and blossomed into the enterprise it became.
But his business selling stolen booze ended abruptly in the spring of 2015, when investigators got a tip and discovered five barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon with the logo spray-painted out in a shed at Toby Curtsinger’s home. This was not the missing Pappy Van Winkle from 2013 “Pappygate,” nor was Wild Turkey produced at the distillery Curtsinger was employed at. But the barrels were was stolen nonetheless. And after a search of the home uncovered steroids as well, Curtsinger, who was 45 at the time, was arrested. He pleaded guilty to charges including theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.
Although ten people including Curtsinger’s wife and father were indicted for allegedly engaging in the organized crime scheme, Curtsinger was the only one sentenced to prison, as authorities believed him to be the mastermind behind it all. While he received a sentence of 15 years, he was released after just one month on “shock probation,” which can be given to first-time offenders who pose no threat to society.
Today, Curtsinger works as a painter near Frankfort, Kentucky. His parole supervision will end in 2023. His wife Julie entered an Alford plea, meaning she didn’t admit to committing the crime but pleaded guilty to second-degree possession of a controlled substance due to the substantial amount of steroids found at her home. Per the documentary, the couple is still working on their marriage. “I feel like we have more healing to do,” Julie says in the series. “I feel like we’re going to be better in years to come. I think we’re gonna be okay.”
Curtsinger stole from his employer for years, turning a profit distributing their product illegally. But no Pappy Van Winkle was recovered from his property, and to this day, he insists that the 65 cases of Pappy that went missing in the fall of 2013 had nothing to do with him.
Instead, Heist suggests that another Buffalo Trace employee, Greg Anglin, could have carried out the 2013 “Pappygate” heist. Anglin admitted he stole Pappy Van Winkle from Buffalo Trace, but received immunity for his testimony against Toby Curtsinger. Anglin was never charged in the case.
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