Two men are accused of selling state data that would help buyers in Virginia get early access to rare and hard-to-find bottles of bourbon.
Virginia is one of 17 states that control the distribution of distilled spirits. The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority operates all liquor stores in the state—395 of them—and has contributed more than $2.6 billion to the state’s general fund in the last five years.
In April, the ABC announced a new system designed to randomly select only a few stores to sell its supply of limited-availability bourbons, such as Blanton’s Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace, and other brands. The ABC planned to make announcements on social media about where the allocated bourbon products would be available. (The ABC’s allocated bourbons include highly sought bourbons, whiskies, and other small-batch offerings, about 120 varieties.)
The system was designed to cut down on bourbon enthusiasts camping outside of stores when a new shipment of rare or hard-to-find bourbon was scheduled. It was touted as a way to increase fairness and “limit opportunities for individuals or groups to line up outside stores for extended periods or seek information that gives them an unfair advantage.”
Conspiracy theories quickly followed, and many social media commenters suggested that someone on the inside was selling insider info to bourbon buyers.
An ABC investigation led to four felony indictments against an ABC employee and an alleged co-conspirator. Edgar Smith Garcia, an ABC employee, is accused of passing along the internal agency information to Robert William Adams, who is accused of selling that information to buyers he contacted through online bourbon hunting groups. They are charged with computer trespass and embezzling the ABC’s inventory list, according to the Virginia Mercury.
Both have been released on bond after their arrests, the newspaper reported.
“In April, following a review of how these products are sold, we adjusted our distribution methods to provide all customers with the greatest opportunity to purchase limited supply products,” said ABC spokeswoman Dawn Eischen in a statement. “Based on complaints and our own observations ahead of the changes, we and other law enforcement entities conducted an investigation that resulted in charges against Robert Adams.”
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