Seattle police have begun the difficult task of processing more than 2,500 bottles of stolen wine found at a SoDo storage and manufacturing facility Tuesday.*
“Detectives need to photograph and document each bottle, enter it into evidence, and then we need to find the owner of each bottle,” says Investigations Lieutenant Greg Schmidt.
Police served a search warrant at a building less than a mile away from Esquin Wine Merchants, which was targeted by thieves who broke into the business and stole more than 200 cases of wine worth $648,000 on Thanksgiving. Following the break-in, the burglars also attempted to burn the business to the ground to cover their tracks.
Some of the victims of the Thanksgiving Day wine shop heist may not yet even know they were targeted in the break-in, as Esquin Wine Merchants staff and detectives are still attempting to reach the hundreds of people who rented specially temperature controlled storage units in the store. “With hundreds of potential victims, that’s a lot of work,” Lt. Schmidt says.
Once police are able to speak with each of the storage unit-renters, Schmidt says, “they need to tell us what they’re missing, we have to check that against the evidence we recovered, and then they have to identify their wine and prove ownership. A victim may tell us they had a $125 bottle of Washington chardonnay in storage, but we may have hundreds of those.”
On top of all of that, police must take great care while processing each of the bottles, many of which are worth hundreds of dollars. “We have to handle them delicately to make sure they’re not damaged,” Schmidt says.
In addition to processing a massive amount of evidence, detectives are also juggling what Schmidt calls an “ever expanding” investigation, and are working to find out what the suspects had planned to do with all that wine. “Evidence is leading us to believe the two suspects we’ve arrested were common thieves,” Schmidt says. “They’re not wine connoisseurs in any way shape or form.”
*Detectives have asked us to omit the location of the facility while they process the case, but may be available for interviews on December 12th.