A Newport Beach, California man faces up to 16 years in prison for stealing close to $3 million in wine from private storage lockers at Legend Cellars in nearby Irvine. According to AP, George Osumi, a former employee of the private wine storage facility, apparently stole $2.7 million in wine from three different clients over a four-year period. Osumi's son, Scott Osumi, the current president of Legend Cellars, is cooperating with investigators after it was discovered that, according to his attorney, his father had embezzled money from both Legend and his son.
So how did George Osumi get away with allegedly stealing more than 1,000 bottles of clients' wine over the course of several years without the victims noticing? Easy. He replaced the missing first-growth Bordeaux with Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's.
According to the deputy district attorney on the case Osumi allegedly removed the more expensive wines from their original boxes and filled them with $2 swill. Because many of these clients have upwards of thousands of cases of wine, they simply didn't notice.
This news comes just six months after Osumi, who owned a construction business, was indicted on charges that he misrepresented facts to the state insurance fund, committed an aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, and property damage over $65,000, according to the Orange County Register. What's more, between 2001 and 2011, prosecutors in this case assert that Osumi created companies under the ownership names of family and close friends to avoid tax liability and fraudulently obtained an American Express card under the name of his former business associate. So, you know, good guy.
A couple of questions still remain, though. According to detectives Osumi broke in to lockers at Legends between Jan 1, 2008 and June 21, 2012, but he was indicted on numerous other felony counts in February 2012, according to court documents. Why wasn't he terminated before June? And if he owned his own construction company, why was he working there in the first place?
The AP also reported that, according to prosecutors, Osumi hired a friend to help him sell the wines on auction, but no word on who this person is and whether or not they knew the wines were stolen.
Thick plot here and one that resembles a wine locker theft case at London's Mayfair Cellars back in 2006, wherein a member of the staff resold around $2 million in wine from clients' cellars over a four year period. Because most of the wines have been sold directly by Osumi or on auction, the victims will likely not recover their wines. The upside? This is likely the best press Two Buck Chuck has received in years.
· California man accused of stealing from lockers [AP]
· George Osumi, Legend Cellars Worker, Accused of Stealing $2.7 mil in Wine from Clients [OC Weekly]
· Business owner faces insurance-fraud charges [OC Register]
· All Wine Coverage on Eater [-E-]