In economic hard times where record numbers of Americans rely on food stamps to survive, not even wine collections are safe from being pilfered by impoverished thieves.
The operator of an Orange County, California business, Legend Cellars, where the public can store rare and expensive wine was charged last month with stealing nearly $3 million in vintage wines from his clients’ chilled storage lockers.
The 64-year-old suspect, George Osumi, was charged with several felonies including burglary and grand theft and faces more than 16 years in prison if convicted.
According to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s office, between January 2008 and June 2012 Osumi entered the private storage lockers of three different owners, taking bottles of wine totaling $2.7 million in value and replacing them with cheaper ones.
One client had more than 1,400 bottles taken.
OCWeekly notes Osumi allegedly hired a friend — who had no idea the wine was stolen — to auction off some wine in 2008 and split the proceeds.
Osumi is accused of depositing $280,000 from these sales into his business account and using the money to pay for personal expenses and legal fees.
Between July 20, 2011, and June 7, 2012, Osumi auctioned stolen wine himself and deposited $310,965 into his business account.
“Osumi faces three felony counts of second degree commercial burglary, one felony count each of grand theft, embezzlement by employee, receiving stolen property, and one misdemeanor count for possession of burglary tools with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, property damage over $1.3 million, and crime-bail-crime.”
Shaddi Kamiabipour, an Orange County deputy district attorney, said in order for his customers to not realize he was taking the wine, he (Osumi) left the boxes there, adding that clients believed they were the only ones who had access to their locked storage spaces.
“But he’d replace the wine with Two Buck Chucks. When you have thousands of cases, you’re not going to know if you’re missing wine unless you actually pick up the box and look inside and say, wait a second, this box doesn’t actually go with the wine.”
The lawyer for the suspect’s son, Scott Osumi, and the Legend Cellars president, contacted OCWeekly to clarify that George Osumi is a former employee of the Irvine business.
George “was terminated after it was discovered he embezzled money from the company and his son,” writes Correen Ferrentino of The Law Offices of Correen Ferrentino in Santa Ana.
Correen added that the younger Osumi “has fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by Irvine Police Department and has taken significant steps to increase company security and assist in identify the few customers victimized by the theft.”