Clayton wine shop owners searching for alleged thief accused of stealing thousands of dollars in expensive wine

Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 5:51 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) - A thief targeting high-priced wine has stolen thousands of dollars of it, according to the owners of two Clayton wine shops.

On Tuesday, employees at The Wine Merchant on Forsythe Boulevard said a man entered the store in the late afternoon and appeared to browse the wine aisles for several minutes.

“My co-worker greeted him,” said Assistant Manager Dustin Endicott. “He didn’t seem overly strange, maybe a little quirky, but that’s not all that unusual.”

Endicott said he was busy stocking shelves about 20 feet away, along with other employees and customers inside the store. Surveillance video shows the man focused in on two bottles of wine, both of which retail for more than $200. The video appears to show the man pull a reusable bag out of his jacket before he kneels down in front of the wine racks. After about 20 seconds, he stands up and walks toward the front door, leaving the store.

“I think he put his bag down, knelt down and then began pulling wine off the racks and putting it into the bag,” Endicott said.

He said when he saw the man leave the store, it seemed suspicious, so he followed him outside. He located the man getting into his car in the alley next door.

“I kind of had the idea to stand in the middle of the alley so he couldn’t get around me, but he had no intention of going around me,” Endicott said. “His intention appeared he was going to go through me, so I stood aside and kicked his car as he went by and got his plate number.”

Endicott said police told him the license plates were stolen.

“He definitely knows what he’s doing, he didn’t seem like he felt out of place at all,” he said. “For what it’s worth, it seems like he’s a pro at what he’s doing.”

The store estimates the man left with around six bottles, totaling more than $1,000.

Down the street at The Wine and Cheese Place, owners believe the same man targeted their store a few months ago.

“A customer, or thief, came in and took advantage of the situation, by posing as a customer, filling up our bags with some very expensive wine, probably two or three thousand dollars at least,” Co-owner Aaron Zwicker said. “Everybody was busy and thought someone else was taking care of him and he just walked out the front door with a lot of wine without paying for any of it.”

Both Zwicker and Endicott said they believe the man has knowledge of the wine industry based on the kinds of wine stolen from their stores.

“He took some wines that were marked at a very high price, $600 or so, other wines were a little more esoteric, some Brunello’s and Barbaresco’s from Italy which while certainly can be collectible aren’t as obvious and wouldn’t have much street value,” Zwicker said.

Since the theft, he has removed the store’s reusable wine bags made available to customers during their shopping experience. Zwicker said he’s also more cautious about what kind of wines are put out on the floor available to anyone.

“We try to make as many wines accessible to them as possible, we don’t always know what they’re looking for,” he said. “If they’re locked up, they may just assume we don’t have them.”

Zwicker said the thief made off with 12 bottles of wine that totaled more than $3,000 in value. His surveillance system captured photos of the alleged thief wearing a polo shirt and shorts, along with a hat and glasses.

Clayton Police confirm to News 4 that it is aware of the crime and working on the case. The Wine Merchant said the car that fled the scene is a 2006 to 2011 Grey Honda Civic with a trunk that was secured with bungee cords.

If you recognize the man in the videos or the suspected car, please call Clayton Police at 314-290-8424.