The Bulletin

Former Virginia ABC employee pleads guilty in liquor leak case

By: - September 19, 2022 3:00 pm

A liquor store in downtown Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A former Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority employee pleaded guilty to a felony computer trespassing charge after he was implicated in an unusual scheme to sell agency inventory data to buyers looking for early intel on which stores would have hard-to-find bottles of bourbon, ABC officials announced Monday.

Edgar Smith Garcia, 28, of Manassas, received a suspended sentence of two years in prison after entering the guilty plea in Hanover County Circuit Court. The two-year sentence was suspended for five years, meaning Garcia, who worked for ABC as a lead sales associate from early 2020 until March, can avoid prison time for good behavior. He is also banned from ABC property and has to pay a $600 fine.

Three other embezzlement and conspiracy charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.

Inside job? ABC embezzlement case points to leaks in hunt for rare bottles of bourbon

The alleged scheme came to light after numerous bourbon collectors raised concerns that some buyers seemed to have a heads up about which stores would be selling rare bottles that aren’t normally available at the state’s government-run liquor stores. That trend frustrated many collectors, who felt they weren’t getting a fair shot because bottles were selling out suspiciously fast. In bourbon collecting groups that organize largely on Facebook, it was an open secret that one particular user was offering inside ABC information for sale.

Authorities believe Garcia’s alleged accomplice in the plan, Robert William Adams, 45, of Newport News, was the person trying to sell the information online. Adams is also facing criminal charges and is set to appear in court on Dec. 12.

To try to address the problem, ABC officials instituted a randomized drop system earlier this year that makes it harder to predict which stores will be selling which bottles.

“We identified a case where an employee worked with an outside individual in violation of ABC policy and Virginia law in the use of inventory information,” Virginia ABC CEO Travis Hill said in a news release. “We are pleased with today’s outcome in Hanover Circuit Court and confident that new distribution methods put in place in April with lessons learned by this incident ensure an equitable environment for customers.”

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Contact him at [email protected]

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