Three men involved in a scheme to sell high-end wine stolen from a Jess Jackson-owned company agreed to admit theft charges in court Wednesday as their preliminary hearing was set to begin.
The man identified as the ringleader, Jordan P. Crass, 30, of Santa Rosa is a former customer service representative at Jackson Family Wines' Windsor distribution center. He agreed to admit all charges filed by prosecutors, said his attorney, Walter Risse.
He agreed to enter pleas after Judge Ren?Chouteau indicated he would not sentence Crass to state prison on felony charges including grand theft, four counts of burglary and unauthorized computer access.
His associates, Jarrett Berg, 29, of Santa Rosa and Kevin M. Hall, 30, of Napa, each agreed to admit one misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property. Hall will be sentenced to five months in jail and Berg three months.
Amounts of restitution the men owe to Jackson Family Wines will be determined later, Risse said.
Investigators said the men may have been involved in the embezzlement and sold nearly 1,000 bottles of bordeaux-style red wine costing as much as $175 each, totaling almost $200,000 worth of wine.
Risse said he hopes Chouteau will be lenient on Crass, who he said is a decorated Iraq war veteran who initially wanted to make extra money to buy a TV for his wife.
Investigators said Crass set up fake shipments of wine, which he labeled "lost" so they wouldn't be tracked to a specific customer. He and Berg then sold the wine to retailers that had online sales sites, and Hall and Berg delivered the wine, according to court records.
The distribution center also handles other wines produced by Jackson's Kendall-Jackson label.
Hall was an employee of Regal Wine Co., a Jackson-owned distribution company. Both Crass and Hall no longer work for Jackson Family Wines.
Company officials became suspicious in April when an executive spotted some of the high-end 2004 Verit?wines for sale online. Those wines, 2004 vintages of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc blends, hadn't been released to the public yet.
An internal investigation by Jackson Family Wines revealed that unreleased 2004 vintages of La Muse, La Joie and Le D?ir wines "were available on the Internet in large quantities and at prices substantially below" retail prices, according to Sonoma County sheriff's detectives.
The wines were being offered on eBay and four fine-wine retailers' Web sites.
Company investigators traced computer transactions believed to have been made by Crass that show he also traded bottles of wine for tickets to sporting events, detectives said.
A sentencing hearing was set for December.
You can reach Staff Writer L.A. Carter at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.