True Crime Thursday – Thanksgiving Wine Heist

By Debbie Burke


In 2013, a pair of Seattle plumbers decided Thanksgiving sounded like a good opportunity for a heist. The Sodo neighborhood should be deserted for the holiday. No one was likely to notice two vans parked outside Esquin Wine and Spirits. The building housed climate-controlled rental storage lockers where wine collectors kept valuable vintages.

Samuel Harris and Luke Thesing, then 35 and 36, had planned the heist at least a month ahead. Harris kept a journal entitled “The Plan” with all the steps plotted out.

They rented a locker for access to case the building. At Lowe’s, they bought spray paint, gloves, and black plastic sheeting.

On the big day, they carefully parked the getaway vans to block exterior surveillance cams. Once inside the building, they spray-painted lenses of other cameras, covered motion detectors with black plastic, and went to work. They cut through sheetrock between lockers to gain access to 200 cases of expensive wine valued at $648,000 that they planned to sell.

However, they probably shouldn’t have parked the vans in a towaway zone.

While the thieves were busy inside, their vehicles were impounded.


Plan B: They loaded the stolen wine into Harris’s Cadillac Escalade.

In an attempt to cover their tracks, Harris cut a natural gas line and tampered with a pilot light, believing the building would catch fire and burn down.

With the vans gone, the exterior security cams now had a good view of Harris and Thesing as they drove away in the Escalade.

The next day, someone reported smelling gas inside the building. The arson attempt could have resulted in an explosion that would have devastated the neighborhood. Fortunately, it was unsuccessful and the theft was discovered.

Things didn’t go according to The Plan.”

The Escalade was tracked to Harris’s residence. He was identified by the business owner who recognized him from the previous month when he had rented the locker.

They neglected to throw away the Lowe’s receipt that police found in Harris’s possessions. The store’s security video showed Harris and Thesing together buying supplies used in the heist.

Detectives also found more evidence in Harris’s car and home, including his journal plus additional documents: “Is it Accidental Fire or Arson?” and “How to Commit the Perfect Crime.”

Apparently, they did not study those directions thoroughly enough.

The investigation also tied Harris to an earlier theft. In May 2013, he had stolen $250,000 worth of wine from a Belltown woman who had hired him to build a wine cellar.

Harris and Thesing pleaded guilty in King County Superior Court. In July 2014, they were sentenced to prison, Harris for nine years and Thesing for five years.

The best-laid plans…….


Today, I’m raising a toast (with lawfully-purchased wine) and giving thanks for many good friends at The Kill Zone.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones and lots of leftovers! 

This entry was posted in #truecrimethursday, Writing by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes the Tawny Lindholm series, Montana thrillers infused with psychological suspense. Her books have won the Kindle Scout contest, the Zebulon Award, and were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and Her articles received journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

21 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – Thanksgiving Wine Heist

  1. Foiled by a tow-away zone! So much for the “perfect crime.” Great account, Debbie. If only their ingenuity, organization and effort had been put to a better cause.

    Happy Thanksgiving, to you and your family, and all who observe the holiday here. I’ll be gathering with family at my wonderful brother-in-law’s house in a few hours, for the first time in two years. Wine will likely be on hand, since he lives near vineyards.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Debbie. Great post. The story would make a great movie, a comedy. They apparently didn’t have the latest version of HOW TO COMMIT THE PERFECT CRIME. If they had waited seven years, to 2020, they could have just rioted peacefully.

    Have a great day with family and food…and legal wine.

    And tell the rest of us here at TKZ that it’s a holiday, and we can respond to our comments ourselves!

    • Happy Thanksgiving, Steve. Hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful day.

      Say, there’s your next story–a screenplay for the great Thanksgiving Day wine heist.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving. The table is set, and we’ll begin the festivities with a glass of legally procured Bosnian wine I brought back from my trip.

  4. When I saw the journal entitled “The Plan,” I thought, This will end badly. Obviously more evidence against them, but also proof they were inebriated by the trappings of a fictional caper, the sign of amateurs. They spent 13 hours inside, another tell. Then they dug a deeper hole for themselves by trying to set the place on fire. I can hear Gale Gordon saying to Miss Brooks: “Ohhh, what a tangled web we weave . . .”

    Felicitous Gratitude-expression Day, all you writer-people!

    • Apparently “most” of the wine was recovered. Do you think they might have sampled just a little bit of the haul?

      Happy Thanksgiving, J! Appreciate you being part of TKZ’s community.

      • I think it came to over 200 cases, so It would be surprising if a case or two didn’t get dropped. And yes, these guys probably wet their whistles from time to time, another amateur habit. They apparently missed a camera, too. They got off easy

  5. Happy Thanksgiving, Debbie! Thank you for yet another great true crime story. These guys were obviously not rocket scientists. Their arrests were pre-ordained.

    Have a great holiday weekend!

    • Happy Thanksgiving, Joe. Hope your dinner turned out beautifully and you have lots of tasty leftovers.

      They shoulda stuck to plumbing. On second thought, would you really want them working on your pipes???

  6. Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Debbie, this is so hilarious. I would think stealing wine would be hard. Lots of volume, breakable, etc. These guys sound like “plotters” turned to “panthers” midstream.

    • Thanks, Kay. What’s interesting is that Harris had stolen wine before and evidently gotten away with it. That may have emboldened him to go on to bigger heists. His reach overshot his grasp.

      Hope your Thanksgiving and family visit was warm and memorable.

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