French Laundry Wine Thief Faces Sentencing

Prosecutors seek prison time, almost $600,000 in restitution

One of the gang that drained some of California’s top restaurants and wine merchants of almost $900,000 of fine Bordeaux and Burgundies is scheduled to be sentenced later on Tuesday.

Davis Kiryakoz, of Modesto, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in December, forfeited $80,450 in January, could now face between 24 and 30 months in prison for helping to steal 110 bottles of wine — including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, as well as the rare Screaming Eagle Cabernet. That’s the time that the U.S. Probation Office calculated.

Between March 2013 and January 2015, Kiryakoz and his co-defendants stole high-end wines from the Michelin three-star restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, Alexander Steakhouse in Cupertino and from upmarket retailer, Fine Wines International in San Francisco. All three burglaries were conducted in the early morning hours, according to the court papers.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Cynthia Frey suggested that the low-end of the sentencing range “is appropriate in this case and is recommending 24-months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, a fine, restitution of $585,715,” in addition to the forfeiture.

Kiryakoz, in a letter to U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman, told how he was needed at home to take care of his sick mother, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes. In fractured English, he wrote, “with (sic) me continue working in bringing in income I can help her out with the rent and paying the utilities and getting groceries and be able to take her to her doctors visits which would be real vital due to the conditions and be a real hardship on her to. I appreciate taking this into consideration and hoping we have some resolution to this issue.”

Kiryakoz and his co-defendants did not receive all the money they had negotiated for the sale of the French Laundry wines that were taken over a Christmas weekend. The buyer in North Carolina found out they had been stolen and refused to pay, court papers show. Instead, the buyer arranged to have the wines handed over to law enforcement to be returned to the famed restaurant.

“Burglary is a serious crime that is violent in nature,” Frey wrote in her sentencing memorandum to the judge. “The value of the wines stolen is almost $900,000, which is significant. Moreover the defendant’s conduct was not limited to one incident. Rather, he participated in a course of conduct that took place over almost two years.”

Sentencing is scheduled for later today.

Published on March 28, 2017
Topics: Beverage Industry Enthusiast
About the Author
Leslie Gevirtz
Contributing Editor, Business

An award-winning journalist, Gevirtz spent more than 20 years covering disasters—natural, political, and financial—before becoming Reuters’ wine correspondent; a beat that guaranteed her colleagues were always glad to see her.

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