Guilty plea for Modesto man involved in French Laundry wine theft

A Modesto man admitted he conspired to steal more than 100 bottles worth more than $500,000 in a Christmas 2014 heist that shook Wine Country restaurateurs.|

One of two men indicted earlier this year for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in high-end wine from renowned Yountville restaurant The French Laundry has pleaded guilty, admitting he was involved in a conspiracy to steal and sell dozens of bottles taken in a brazen Christmas 2014 heist, according to federal prosecutors.

A plea agreement for Davis Kiryakoz, 44, of Modesto, was approved Tuesday by federal District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco announced. The other man indicted in the case, Alfred Georgis, of Mountain View, has yet to enter a plea or go to trial.

Under his plea deal, Kiryakoz admitted to conspiring to transport more than $870,000 in wine stolen from The French Laundry and two other California businesses.

Prosecutors said Kiryakoz admitted he conspired to steal about 110 bottles of wine from The French Laundry two years ago in a heist that shook Wine Country restaurateurs. The plea deal put the total value of the bottles taken at nearly $550,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The burglary - on a day when chef and owner Thomas Keller’s exclusive restaurant was closed for renovations and its alarm turned off - was among a pair of 2014 thefts from Napa eateries that represented the largest high-dollar wine heists in Napa County history.

The French Laundry case involved prized bottles of wine often compared to works of art - including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, or DRC, worth up to $10,000 a bottle.

Kiryakoz admitted that, after stealing the wines, he and a co-conspirator arranged to ship bottles to North Carolina from multiple California cities, including Modesto, San Jose and Los Gatos, according to federal prosecutors.

They were able to ship 63 bottles - valued at over $200,000 - and received some payments via wire transfers, but the buyer eventually backed out after learning the wine was stolen from The French Laundry, prosecutors said.

Kiryakoz further admitted he arranged to ship some 17 bottles of wine worth about $25,550 stolen in November 2014 from a Cupertino restaurant, Alexander’s Steakhouse.

He also acknowledged conspiring to steal about 29 bottles in total from the restaurant, with a value of about $32,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Finally, Kiryakoz admitted he and others arranged for the March 2013 theft of 142 bottles of wine - worth about $290,000 - from Fine Wines International in San Francisco. From that batch of stolen wine, Kiryakoz shipped bottles valued at $127,800, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Prosecutors said Kiryakoz is set to be sentenced on March 28.

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