Bitty Booze-Bottle Bandits Busted: Cops
NEW YORK – New York's Kennedy Airport cops have scotched a $1.5 million scam in which mini-bottles of booze intended for American Airline passengers were spirited away and sold to stores, officials said yesterday.
Three workers at Sky Chefs Inc., a food and beverage supplier that caters to airlines at JFK, were arrested yesterday for allegedly stealing hundreds of cases of the little bottles from a storage room over 16 months.
"They were arrested on charges of systematically looting as much as 50 cases a week of these single-portion bottles of untaxed liquor," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
The pinched liquor included Courvoisier cognac, Chivas Regal and Dewar's scotch and Kahlua.
A fourth man, a trucker, was also arrested.
"Operation Bottoms Up" began after a Port Authority detective got suspicious when he spotted a Sky Chefs vehicle - which is supposed to operate only on the airport grounds - leaving JFK.
After the bottles were taken from the room, they were brought to a local garage, officials said.
Then they were "sold to local delis and neighborhood grocery stores, and then they in turn would sell them to the public," Brown said.
The suspects allegedly sold the cases - each worth $768 and containing 192 bottles - for $100 a case. Each bottle then sold for between $2 and $ 3.
PA cops arrested Eddie Cherestal, 28, of Brooklyn, and Jamel Flowers, 22, of Queens, who both worked in Sky Chefs' storage room.
Also arrested was Erwin Leonardo, 31, a Sky Chef equipment driver, whose South Ozone Park garage was allegedly used to store the pinched booze.
Cops also nabbed George Davis, 61, of Newark, a trucker who delivered some stolen liquor to Leonardo's garage, the DA said.
The men face charges that include grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, and each faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.