(BARDSTOWN, Ky.) — A Kentucky high school principal who was named a “person of interest” in the theft of more than $25,000 worth of sought-after bourbon denies that he offered to sell a large quantity of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon to a liquor store.
Chris Pickett, of Bardstown, Ky., said he went into Packages and More Liquors in Elizabethtown, Ky., because he is a collector of whiskeys and was looking to add to his reserve, his lawyer Doug Hubbard told ABC News.
Pickett was named a person of interest in the bourbon theft after the store alerted police that someone allegedly offered to sell a large quantity of Pappy Van Winkle. The store’s videotape shows a person entering the store and then leaving 90 seconds later, Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton told ABC News.
The surveillance footage was posted on the Sheriff Department’s Facebook page last week and to local media in hopes of finding out who the man could be.
Hubbard said he contacted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to identify the high school principal as the man seen in the footage, Melton said.
Pickett is “appalled” by the incident, Hubbard told ABC News.
“I really can’t explain why the people in the whiskey store did what they did,” Hubbard said. “Why would anybody run into a store with a sweatshirt saying where you’re from, trying to sell something in 90 seconds? None of it smells exactly right.”
The case revolves around 65 cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon reported stolen over a two-month period from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky., on Oct. 15, Melton said. Twenty-seven bottles of 13-year-old Pappy Van Winkle rye was also stolen as well.
In total, 222 bottles costing approximately $26,025 were reported missing, Melton said.
“The [20-year-old] Pappy alone retails for about $130 a bottle. In secondary and third markets, it’ll go for as much as $1,000,” he said. “People are very passionate about their Pappy. The 20-year-old Pappy is what everybody wants.”
Hubbard said that Pickett went into the store to see if they had any bottles of George T. Stagg to add to his collection. When he was told they didn’t, his client then asked if they had any Pappy Van Winkle.
When Pickett was told no, “he conversationally said, ‘I’m a collector and I’ve got a bunch of Pappy Van Winkle and I’m looking to add to my collection.’ And then he walked out,” Hubbard said.
Pickett has been collecting whiskey for about 10 years and has a stockpile of approximately 80 bottles, Hubbard said. He only has one bottle of the rare, 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle.
Authorities interviewed Pickett on Monday afternoon with regard to the missing bourbon stash, Melton said.
While two separate store clerks “specifically said that he offered to sell a large quantity of bourbon,” Pickett told investigators that he went into the liquor store just to buy a bottle, Melton said.
“He was very forthcoming with everything, but the discrepancy was that he said he was there to buy, and the clerks are saying that he was there to sell,” he said.
“We just want to get Pappy home,” Melton said.
ABC News’ phone calls to Pickett were not immediately returned. A manager at Packages and More Liquor declined to comment to ABC News.
Buffalo Trace Distillery spokeswoman Amy Preske declined to comment to ABC News.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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