Police: Ex-customers steal $650,000 of wine from SoDo shop

SEATTLE -- A pair of men tried to cover up their theft of $648,000 worth of wine by attempting to burn down a SoDo wine shop over Thanksgiving weekend, according to the Seattle Police Department.

According to police, two men broke into Esquin Wine & Spirits, which contains 450 privately-rented wine storage lockers, around 2:30 a.m. Nov. 29 and painted over its security cameras. The men broke into the building through a window and door near a loading dock then cut holes in a wall to gain access to the wine storage area.

Taking advantage of the holiday weekend, the men stole more than 200 cases of wine over the next 13 hours during nine trips in an SUV. Afterward, the men reportedly cut the gas lines into Esquin and attempted to ignite them. It didn't work, and the shop, as well as a vacant store next door, filled with gas.

The building manager stopped by later that day, smelled the gas and called 911. About 30 people were working inside the building when the gas leak was discovered. Police believe the men wanted to burn the building to cover their crime.

Unfortunately for the criminal masterminds behind the heist, they missed one of Esquin's security cameras. Doubly unfortunately for them, the Esquin owner recognized one of the men as a renter of one of the shop's many temperature-controlled storage lockers, according to police. The owner told police the suspect signed a rental agreement on October 10th and provided an address in Seattle.

The suspect, 34-year-old Samuel Harris, was arrested at his South Seattle home Dec. 2. At the time of the arrest, Harris was carrying a bag containing a list of wines, a printout of wine descriptions and correspondence between him and a San Francisco wine consultant, according to police. Apparently, Harris, who has no prior criminal history, wanted to sell more than $100,000 of wine for cash. KOMO contacted the San Francisco wine consultant on Wednesday and he said he was not aware of the Seattle Police investigation and had no comment.

A spokesman for Esquin released a statement on Wednesday afternoon. It read in part, "We are committed to providing our customers with the very best in wine storage, and are pleased that our security measures helped lead to the apprehension of one of the suspects." Esquin is offering a $20,000 reward for the safe recovery of the stolen wine.

"The sophistication and timing of the break-in indicates that the criminals had carefully planned their crime for some time," the statement read.

Harris is being held at King County Jail on a $500,000 bail. Police are still looking for the second suspect.