226 – EXCLUSIVE: Confessions of a Bourbon Counterfeiter


In this Bourbon Pursuit exclusive, listen to a story from an admitted bourbon counterfeiter. This episode dives into the motives, operation, and recourse of a bourbon counterfeiter. Listen to how an addiction contributed to a cycle of refilling empty bottles and reselling them on the secondary markets and the ultimate price he had to pay. We hope this interview will serve as a lesson for not only folks connected with these circles, but also for whiskey producers to implement new packaging to protect their consumers.
DISCLOSURE: As a part of the agreement to come on the show, we are not revealing the identity of our guest as he wishes to remain anonymous. Any comments regarding the guest’s name will be deleted and anything shared is not factual and is considered libel.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about online alcohol sales.
  • How did you get into the bourbon market?
  • When did you start thinking about counterfeiting?
  • What made it easy to counterfeit?
  • Why aren’t you in jail?
  • How were you caught?
  • What happened when you got caught by the community?
  • Why did you not turn yourself in?
  • Did you feel remorse or just bad because you got caught?
  • How many counterfeit bottles did you create?
  • How long have you been selling counterfeits?
  • Did you ever counterfeit a Van Winkle?
  • What was the fall out after you were caught?
  • What kind of threatening phone calls did you receive?
  • What was it like facing your family?
  • Are you still with your wife?
  • How can someone spot a fake?
  • What did you refill with?
  • Now that some time has passed, how are things going?
  • Did you ever talk to any other counterfeiters?
  • Did you consider it fun?
  • Did you need the money?
  • Are you starting to move on?
  • Have your parents been able to look past the situation?
  • How much revenue did you make?
  • How were your kids affected?
  • What would you say to someone thinking about counterfeiting?
  • What did your friends think?
  • What if you didn’t get caught? Would it be worth the money?
  • Would you ever try to counterfeit again?

Transcription:

0:00
Everybody Are you interested in looking at the distilling process and pairing that with key business knowledge such as finance, marketing and operations, then you should check out the online distilled spirits business certificate from the University of Louisville. It’s an online program. It can be completed in as little as 15 weeks. It’s taught by both of you have all business faculty and corporate fellows. So you’re getting real experience from real experts at the most renowned distilleries, companies and startups in the distilling industry. all that’s required is a bachelor’s degree, go to U of l.me. Slash pursue spirits.

0:34
There is no amount of money that is worth everything that you go through. There isn’t. And I say that with extreme confidence. It’s not worth it.

0:55
All right, everybody, it is Episode 226 of bourbon pursuit. sued. And we don’t have a whole lot of bourbon news to kind of cover. So we’ll just kind of give you some updates on what’s been happening with inside the ecosystem. And last week was what was considered the great Buffalo Trace barrel frenzy. We talked about on the show with Bo Beckman at Buffalo Trace about how there are barrels that are allocated for the general public that can get access to him. And now as you can imagine, there are thousands and thousands of people going after just a handful of barrels, and you knew it was going to be an intense few moments as soon as it went online. But there was a huge feeling defeat felt across the entire bourbon landscape. When people logged in and within the matter of one second, every single barrel was gone. Yet, persistence paid off and with the help of our Patreon community bourbon pursuit was able to capture to Buffalo Trace barrels and a 1792 foolproof, so we’re looking forward to bringing those to our community in 2020. Now speaking of barrel selections, we’re out at four roses today, selecting our final They’re all from there for 2019. That’s going to be five barrels from four roses this year. And we’re always humbled and thankful for the opportunity to go and bring our Patreon community members along with us. So thanks to four roses for always being so accommodating and awesome. And a huge shout out to keg and bottle out of San Diego for being our retail partner who makes all this possible. Make sure you go and check them out online at keg and bottle calm that’s keg the letter in bottle.com. And you can get whiskey shipped right to your doorstep. And now for some quick history. November 4 celebrated the birth of Isaac wolf Bernheim Born in 1848 Bernheim was a Kentucky businessman who helped cement Louisville as a center for the bourbon industry. Today, heaven Hill bears the name of this American whiskey pioneer on their Bernheim original wheat whiskey as well as on the Bernheim distillery that’s located in Louisville, Kentucky. All right now on to today’s podcast. Be fair, this isn’t our usual light hearted cells. In fact, it gets very intense very quickly. So if you’re hoping to listen today and get a few laughs, sure, you’re not really going to get any. But if you are a first time listener, please go back and make sure you listen to some of our other episodes because you’ll get a feel about how our typical feeling and how we really run an episode is around here. But this episode is really here to serve a lesson for all those out there who dare to venture down this road. We all know that counterfeits exist. And it’s actually really hard to tell a difference if they’re good enough. And what the new vintage laws in Kentucky and even other states like Washington DC, that can buy bottles from consumers and sell them in retail stores. It means that even buying your bottles from retail stores isn’t safe either. So if you’re out there and you’re looking for high end bourbon and you’re willing to drop a lot of money, you really need to look after yourself. I hope this podcast is kind of a wake up call to a lot of the

3:59
producers out there that have highly allocated products on the market. Many enthusiasts believe that it’s time to start implementing some form of anti tampering mechanisms or something that can be done with the packaging to start preventing counterfeits, and this podcast should spark some of those conversations of not only what happens when you’re caught up in some of these counterfeit rings, but what can you as a producer do to start protecting your consumers? If you’re interested in other podcasts that we’ve released, they’re all organized on our website by distillery, bourbon, one on one series and lots more. Go check it out at bourbon pursuit.com. Here’s a quick message from Joe over a barrell bourbon, and then you’ve got Fred Minnick with above the char.

4:45
Hi, this is Joe Beatrice from barrell bourbon. I know I talk a lot about blending here, but we also have a national single barrel program. ask you a local retailer or bourbon club about selecting your own private barrel. Find out more at barrell bourbon, com

5:00
Fred Minnick, and this is above the char, the secondary market as we once knew it is gone, you can no longer go on to a Facebook group and actively trade or buy from someone three states away. There’s no getting it back either. And let me tell you why. Because nearly every Attorney General in the United States of America has band together to try and end the secondary market on eBay, Craigslist, Facebook in other places. In a recent letter, a coalition of 46 State Attorney General’s asked companies and their respective states to review their current postings for online alcohol sales, ask them to remove illegal postings and develop programming to actually develop programming on their own dime to blog and prevent users from violating state alcohol laws. Now here is a quote from the Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, Mike Hunter. He says this isn’t about violating state laws. It’s about protecting the health and well being of Oklahomans illegally sold alcohol thought state licensing laws that ensure the substances aren’t tainted and are coming from a reputable vendor. The substances being sold illegally could originate anywhere and could contain deadly substances like methanol, as we work with Facebook, Craigslist and eBay to crack down on the issue. I am encouraging Oklahomans to use extreme caution when purchasing alcohol online and quote, and notice that he used the word online versus secondary social media groups. because let me tell you what this really is. This is a defense of the three tier system. This is the three tier system rising up and saying we don’t want online alcohol sales. You seen the likes of drunk minibar, the spirits network and other entities try and make this work. The entire world is moving to online sales. And yet alcohol wants to remain like it’s in the 1950s. Now, I have no issues with walking into your local liquor store and buying something. But we have got to move forward into the future. This is no longer 1995. And this is the same group that took down the tobacco industry. And now they’re trying to block any kind of online mechanism to sell alcohol. Now what we had going in this in the secondary groups on Facebook, those were, let’s say, developed for hobbyists, they don’t want that either. So if you are if you live in Maine or Vermont, or one of these other states and you don’t get a good allocation of bourbon and you have a buddy in Kentucky or Texas that you want to work with to get a bottle Well, good luck because the United States of America does not wants you to have that. So think about that when you’re going to vote for that next state election, bring this up as an issue, see where they stand with alcohol shipping. Most states don’t allow it. Most states don’t want it because the distributors in those respective states wants to keep a money in their nest egg. Now, I don’t sell. I don’t buy from people I don’t know or liquor stores that I’m not familiar with. But that’s not to say that it should be that I believe it should be illegal for someone in Hawaii or Maine or wherever to work with someone in Texas to buy a bottle they can’t get in their respective state. But that’s the future. The future is going back to the old guard and these attorney generals are leading the charge just like they did against the tobacco industry. Someone’s got to stand up to him. Who is it going to be? Might as well be us. If you You want to if you want alcohol shipping in your state, right, your representative, if you want to see Amazon drizzly or mini bar or the spirits network to be able to succeed and to offer you a product that you cannot go and get in your local liquor store, then fight for it. Because that is the only way it’s going to happen and no one will listen to us unless you say something. So fight. And that’s this week’s above the char. Hey, if you have an idea for above the char hit me up on Instagram or Twitter. And by the way, did you know I now have a YouTube channel? look me up on YouTube? search my name Fred Minnick. Until next week. Cheers.

9:46
Welcome back to the episode of bourbon pursuit the official podcast of bourbon, Kenny Ryan and Fred together again today. Usually open it up with something light and something airy in today’s a little bit different because this is something that has Been a topic that is always been a worrisome issue inside of the the bourbon market inside of the high end really the high end bourbon market as well as Do you know what you’re buying? You know, we’ve we all know that there’s online forums, there’s, there’s websites, there’s all kinds of places to go and get allocated whiskey. However, you never ultimately know the source unless you’re usually buying it directly from a retail knowing that it got there on the day of delivery happen. It’s it’s even, it’s even hard to even find from retailers nowadays. But when we start going down this path, we start looking at the counterfeit side, is it out there? Does it happen? And of course it does. And that’s the that’s the truth and the sad reality of what is out there. However, today’s episode is really going to expand on that even more to kind of look at what is the harsh reality of somebody that does this and gets caught?

10:55
Yeah, I mean, the the bourbon community is all built on trust, you know, and like We’ve all had that when we buy bottled like my wife thought I was absolutely crazy just buying random bottles from random people and you know, it was built on trust. So it’s, you know, that’s something that we don’t take lightly. And you know that Yeah, I’m hoping today will be an enlightenment and indeterminate you know, from it happening again, but hopefully enlightened some people to to know what’s out there and just, you know, be on your guard for it as well.

11:22
And our guests has informed us that he is under legal scrutiny. And I think a lot of people listening would think you should be in jail. People who commit these kinds of frauds and wine are spinning up to 30 years in jail right now. So I don’t know what the status of your legal problems are. But, you know, the fact you’re sitting with us tells me that you, you care enough to sit down with us but I want to tell you something We don’t feel sorry for you. No one’s going to feel sorry for you. Most people listening are going to want you to be in jail. And the only reason why you’re on here, the only reason why I agreed with Kenny and Ryan, to have you on here. We’re so that we could possibly prevent this from happening again. And I look at this, as it was kind of we discussed previously, like this is the ex con come into sixth grade, telling us to not steal a car, because you’ll end up like me. So

12:42
that’s what I have to say.

12:43
Absolutely. And so we’re going to keep everything anonymous as much as we can, because of the really the severity of the situation. And we don’t want to implicate any parties involved. So we’re going to be referring to the person that’s joining us today as john about as generic as I can. Get. So john, thank you so much for joining us today giving us a little glimpse into really where this happened and kind of and how it sort of spiraled out of control. So kind of talk about first your introduction into like the bourbon market. Was it something that you saw as you actually enjoyed bourbon? Or was it something that you saw as an opportunity for for business isn’t like a flipping game or something like that?

13:28
Well, I do enjoy bourbon. And when I got involved in groups, it was on a very low scale, but it ended up to where I was selling quite a few a bit or bottles so it ended up being more of a business type. Not a business where I as I quit my other jobs or anything, but it was a strong hobby to where, you know, I enjoyed, you know, buying and selling bourbon so and I kept up with it quite a bit. So it left for me liking it to longer I got into it, me selling more and more by

14:00
Yeah, it was kind of like, I mean, is it like a drug or a habit? You can’t quit like, it’s an easy way to I mean, let me wrong like a lot of people flip bottles and they go and do it. You got you get a well or 12 and 40 bucks you sell it for 140 it’s, it’s an easy it’s an easy bedroom and outside that’s a very good way to put it.

14:16
It really is.

14:17
Yeah. And I guess if you can scale the operation it makes sense to so kind of talk about the next evolution of it. I mean, was it was it the ability that you know that because you were in these groups for a while, so you kind of understood the dynamic of of how the the bourbon in the secondary the gray market really works? And what was the kind of the phase that that took it to that next step where you started looking at, okay, maybe I could actually counterfeit stuff.

14:50
I guess maybe for some people that it could be easily done. And that’s the problem with it is some of these bottles that can be it can be easily done and And that’s what really, I guess started on this so easy, you know, no one will ever know. And and that’s what kind of started really right then in there.

15:12
What were some of the things that you thought made it were easy just like how the products are labeled or sealed or?

15:18
Yes, the ceiling. Gotcha. Correct. Exactly. And not on all bottles just on certain ones particular like guys. Oh,

15:24
yeah, yeah. Why are you?

15:28
Why are you in jail?

15:31
That’s a good question.

15:35
I guess I don’t really have an answer for that exactly. on why I’m not. I’m not saying I shouldn’t be.

15:42
turn yourself in. Did you speak with cops? No,

15:47
no, I’ve never spoken with cops.

15:50
So when you were when you were caught?

15:54
Who you are caught by someone within the community?

15:57
Yes, that’s correct.

15:58
I mean, that’s That’s kind of normal that we’ve seen. I mean, that says, there’s there’s teams of people out there that do they take inventory of Van Winkle lot numbers on Pappy 23 is they look at inventory of of those things. And it gets kind of kind of talking about the day or that progression that happened when you got caught. Did you remember what that looked like? Or how that I guess you could say that the chips started falling. There was a couple bottles in a row. I think that looks suspicious. That led back to me, and that raise some concern. And that’s how it all started. That’s when they start I guess maybe investigating as far as like previous sales of that. Now, so you know quite a bit of bottles in the past. And of course, the problem with that is is that any bottle that ever sold, that raised concern as to where all the models so you know, we’re fraudulent.

16:56
So

16:58
So when when you When you were caught, yes. did it become public in our communities? Yes. At that point, why did you not turn yourself into the authorities?

17:10
I guess I was just trying to stay as low key as possible. I was a nervous wreck at the time. First time, I was really been in trouble. I really didn’t know what to do. You know, I mean, I really didn’t. I was a total loss as to what to do. I was kind of honestly taking a lot of the People’s advice that caught me, and I’ll be honest, they got me through a lot.

17:36
So the people who caught you who helped you?

17:39
Yes. Who because I helped me and also because I did refund money, you know, to the people that got fraudulent bottles. So and I went through each bottle with them, and told them which ones were and which ones where do you

17:53
think it was a like an immediate feeling of remorse or was it like, I just feel really bad that I got caught? At least when it first started, like, I know, I know, we can progress until today because it’s been it’s been years since then. But when the days first started when, you know, the messages started coming, the email started coming. I mean, was it kind of like everything’s starting to really kind of spiral out of control that point? Oh,

18:20
yes. Very quickly starts falling out of control. Yes. Without a doubt it If

18:26
so, talk about some of the the effects that you kind of saw on the very, very first days because we all know that online communities are they’re very bullish right I mean, that’s that’s just the the nature of what it is anybody can hide behind a keyboard and say a lot of stuff. And the same exact time people can do damage to online reputations are very, very quickly so so kind of talk about what that that process was when I first started mounting messages that how to receive threatening messages whether their bottles were real or not. was, was unbelievable. I mean, I received tons of messages. And actually, a lot of the people that were doing, believe it or not the most complaining and threats or, or people that have never even so from in the past, because I guess you’re kind of selling from like a community, you know, I’m just one person, it’s the whole community that goes goes out after you. And so it doesn’t matter if I had sold to them or not I was getting

19:27
whether it be threats, messages, phone calls, whatever you from

19:32
everybody. I mean, you know,

19:35
I mean, you essentially took what was this beautiful hobby, and something that we all enjoyed, and you took advantage of people. You took advantage of people. So I mean, in this day and age, of course, you’re going to get a lot of commentary for people who didn’t. Absolutely, absolutely. So I mean, did you want me What did you expect? I

19:57
did expect it you know, because I had so So many bottles in the past. Now, again, I didn’t really know totally what to expect, but I figured I’d be getting quite a few messages. I didn’t know to what degree and it came in at a large degree that not that I had thought to be honest with you. But again, I, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I just didn’t.

20:19
Do you remember, the amount of the quantity of kind of counterfeit bottles that you had created?

20:25
The exact amount?

20:26
I mean, not the exact amount, but I mean, some sort of round about number, you know, it was probably around

20:32
3435, something like that. But the amount of inquiries that I got, were, well over two to 300.

20:41
How long have you been? How long you been selling before the counterfeits? Oh, at least

20:47
two, maybe three years.

20:49
And so you kind of build up? I would say two to three, you built up a level of trust with buyers and that’s

20:54
why I entered the community. That’s correct. Yes. And that was the hardest thing for me.

20:58
Yeah. It really was. Even if you sold one fake bottle 200 messages is nothing

21:05
is in I mean, you know, all it takes is one. I mean, all it takes is one for you to destroy the trust, you know, and I mean, it can be 10 2100 but I mean, if it’s just that one, it doesn’t matter, you’ve broken all that trust. So it’s not even worth doing why it’s not because it goes back to what I said. Then every other body so people are going to raise the red flag rightfully so as to whether the bottle was real or not. So

21:31
I think one thing our listeners be interested in, was it ever was it ever a van Winkle bottle? But do you ever counterfeit? No,

21:38
no, no, I never. I never did like the high end bottles like two to three. No, no.

21:45
You figure like I’m just trying to think of it from a like a mind aspect you might have gone through that you stick in somewhere like in the middle of the road. Something with like, clear pair of film or clear things that are

21:56
easy to model was like, you know, maybe 340 Hundred average, but I never did the high end stuff.

22:04
So, I’m with you on that. Okay. So I guess let’s let’s kind of progress it on a little bit now. You know, we’ve we’ve harped on a little bit of kind of where it started. In the days that it started happening, kind of talk about a few of the weeks following from there. Because, you know, when, when news surfaces, something like this, it immediately becomes a huge issue with inside of the community. And people are always talking about it. And I’m assuming that in the weeks following, there were more inquiries more emails, that kind of kind of also talked about not only just the emails and inquiries, but like, damage caused to like anything else that was surrounded by you, whether it’s a family or anything like that kind of talk about those short term impact that happened. Well, I mean, my business suffered absolutely tremendously from it.

23:00
My family received threatened phone calls. The office that I worked at they received threatening phone calls because obviously in this day and age, you can google someone and find out pretty much anyone about them. So what’s a threatening phone call? What did they say? I had some people threatening, you know, come down to be mass, you know, near my wife received many threatening calls as well. messages as well. My officers did the same thing. In that went on for quite some time. And that was very difficult. Because I wasn’t the only one affected at that point. It was the people that surrounded me, not just family, but even friends.

23:36
What was it like facing your family net, having them know that what you had done? I was

23:42
the hardest thing ever? Yeah, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I would never want to go through that again.

23:48
Are you still with your wife?

23:49
I am. I am. Luckily, I mean, she stood by my side. I’m very fortunate for that. Yes, I am.

23:58
cause problems

24:00
The business suffered tremendously. I really did. And the bad thing is it wasn’t just for me. It was for other people that I worked with. And that was the hardest thing because they weren’t involved in this whatsoever. And that was very difficult, very difficult.

24:15
So, beyond that, you know, we talked about a business suffering, you know, businesses, they,

24:22
you know, a family can build something and it can be generational. However, sometimes you can rebuild a business, kind of talk about your family at this point, as Ryan kind of alluded to, and must been hard to face them but what was what was their initial reaction? What was their thought process of like, how do we remedy this situation? What What kind of advice do they give you?

24:47
Well, first of all, to cut to come clean. Admit when I did and they try to remediate as best as possible by coming cleaning back, coming forward and paying back anybody that received a different view. Which I did, you know, and that took some time to go through everything because we went through each individual one and and that’s the process that we started with.

25:08
So So where was everybody defrauded? Like hundred percent paid in full kind of?

25:13
Yes, that’s correct, yes. But they receive so many inquiries because, you know, there were other bottles that I saw that you know, the more legitimate but people were still asking and rightfully so.

25:23
So you understand how it’s difficult to believe that you refunded 100% Yes, I do, given because we have no we have no way to validate that.

25:38
What they did was they went to eBay where I got the models and they went through all the accounts, and we went through each bottle individually from them on what I purchased.

25:52
eBay was eBay was the following where you

25:55
access to my accounts, I can passwords and everything.

25:58
So it was eBay your own source of acquiring empty bottles

26:02
yes

26:03
it was so I guess that kind of always goes back to the message we always say to a never sell empty bottles on eBay because this is this is this is this is reality that’s another thing I did to any open bottles that I had it took a video and you know broke every single one of them

26:22
which was quite a few and I went and took a video and broke the law so

26:27
after you were caught that’s correct

26:28
yes afterwards

26:32
so what would you say to someone like it to I guess to for them to check their purchases like what is it what are some like easy signs that someone can like tell a fake not just from tracing it back to an eBay sale but maybe like if they’re looking at seals or anything like what’s what’s some designs that like Something’s fishy or I would say maybe the color

26:54
will be one. The color of the vibrancy if it matches the probably the best thing because Some of them, it would be hard to tell on the seal. So just really would be, but the color would be the number one thing that I would say.

27:09
without tasting it. I’m saying,

27:10
you know, Ryan, I’ve spot a lot. I’ve spotted a lot of fakes my career. In fact, you know, I validate a lot of older bottles and, and unfortunately,

27:21
john is not a good person to ask how to spot a fake because as soon as he’s the guy who has been counterfeiting, and as soon as that heats out his words out there on the street of like, how you spot it, you know, the other ones trying to fix it. Yeah, and that’s the problem with counterfeiting. It’s a fucking virus. You were bourbon fraud one point now. Now we’re a bourbon fraud 3.0 and like, what you were doing that completely discounted now to like how to catch something because everyone’s everyone done it, but you did it. And I still, I still have not felt the remorse. I hear that like this happened. And that happened. I hear a lot of regrets. But you took away a community’s innocence and a lot of ways. I mean, sure, we could have all assumed that this stuff was happening. But you did it. And I still don’t feel like I hear the remorse from you.

28:26
You know, the hardest thing for me was I built up a lot of trust and all that within those groups. And it killed me knowing that I broke that because I built up a lot of good friendships and things. And it was very hard for me to deal with that part because I do I do care about people. That doesn’t show that but I mean, I’m saying to break all that and all the friendships was was very hard for me. I mean, it really was. I mean, that was one of the most difficult things that I went through, is because just people look at you. Obviously you You know differently and I hated that because I do care about what people think probably too much. But I do care about my image and what people think about you know, and I hated that I broke all that trust with the people that I worked with and so for so long whether they received a fraudulent bottle or not, it doesn’t matter because I was still at that view. So

29:21
what did you refill with?

29:25
Well, or mainly,

29:27
you were refilling with Weller? That’s correct. That’s not what I was expecting to hear expecting here so I can tuck Tavern or something

29:36
well or not the one away but the

29:39
the special reserve yes

29:40
actually special reserved Yes.

29:43
So I guess let’s let’s keep on going down No, Fred wants to really feel the remorse you but I kind of want to keep going down this path of so we we’ve touched on the weeks afterwards. Let’s Let’s touch on one year after you know, usually anything What happens in these communities? It’s, it’s it’s breaking news for about a week. And then after that the dust settles and we wait for the next big thing to happen. That’s just typically the the cycle, the ebb and flow of, of what happens. So a year later, sort of where is where’s your head at? Where’s your your business? Like, is it still down? And is it still in a rebuilding phase? Like what? Oh, and what what sort of consequences? We’re still feeling absolutely

30:27
still rebuilding phase, that’s for sure. And I mean, you know, still if I go out, I’ll always have I feel like that perception. So he’s the guy that defrauded people who are in there’s no way of me, you know, there’s nothing.

30:40
You feel like you’re permanently tagged with that

30:42
term. Really? Damn. Yeah. And there’s, I don’t think there’s anything I can do about that. Unfortunately. You know, and I understand that. I understand why, because I broke that trust, you know, and that trust product can never be regained. And I understand that and that’s very difficult for me. So and it’s hot, honestly. It’s hard to live with. I mean, it really is. It’s hard for me to live with you. There’s not a day goes by where I haven’t thought about. And I mean that when I say that there isn’t a day going by there isn’t a day

31:11
where I haven’t thought about it.

31:13
Yeah. I mean, I would imagine it has to be tough. It has to be tough trying to go through this and trying to it’s not worth it. It’s not even establish new racial mean in your in a city. Ryan, we talked about all time. It’s a little town. Everybody knows everybody. Yeah.

31:30
Exactly. And it’s not worth it. The amount that you suffer the amount you lose the mountain, the people that are suffered that are closest to you. It doesn’t even come close. doesn’t even come close.

31:43
As some additional questions I want to ask you, okay. Did you ever talk to any other counterfeiters?

31:49
No. No. At the time you were doing it Was it fun? I wouldn’t classify it as fun now. I would not classify it as fun

32:00
How would you classify it

32:02
would classify it as?

32:05
greed

32:07
as well as more money? That’s what I would classify this

32:12
in one of our never was it fun

32:14
when we go down that greed path?

32:17
You know, I guess, I guess this is how all criminals get caught is they think it’s too easy was Was that your process or thinking of? Well, first of all, he’s not a criminal because he hasn’t. He has not been. He’s evaded in the car. He just admitted that he never talked to the cops or anything, he committed a crime. But, you know, you know, that’s, that’s a different story. But you know, again, go ahead, but I just can I just want to be very clear here. You know, you could always turn yourself in for what you did, alright. can always do that. We’ve agreed to not you know, keep this anonymous but you know, when we When you first reached out to us, I had this big long email about how to make up for it. And it started with turning yourself in. But to me, that’s kind of where a lot of the conversation starts.

33:13
So

33:15
So what led to that? I guess greed like in needing or was it? Did you need the money? Or are you just wanting the money or

33:26
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35:04
So what led to that? I guess greed like in needing or was it? Did you need the money? Or are you just wanting the money or

35:17
I needed the money for

35:21
a habit that I developed, I guess. Yeah. So I guess I could put it that way. What was the habit?

35:33
addiction habit.

35:36
So you weren’t like in clear thinking, clear mind

35:39
that was addiction and

35:42
then I wasn’t clear about it all out. Now. My only thoughts with addiction. I mean, and that’s the only thing that that time that was my only thing on the hit man. I don’t even care about the continent and then it was all about the nation. That’s what it was. That’s how it started.

36:03
Right? So have you been clean? Have you been sober enough? Or? Oh, yes,

36:06
yes. Okay, now I help kids now, was it everything was

36:10
that the cat getting caught the catalyst to kind of do that? Or was that the okay.

36:16
And I feel so much better now. I mean, but, and that’s why I try to give back by helping kids and all that. And that’s been helpful to me myself to do that, you know? Because now that I’ve been through it, I know what it’s like. And that was very hard within itself. Last, yep.

36:41
And so, you know, you had reached out to us about, you know, helping you in regards of, of something that that we had in, you know, we obliged because Ryan was looking at this as an opportunity for giving people you know, opportunities of second chances and everything like that, and then You know, this is kind of how we came here to, to kind of talk about this and have this sort of post mortem of, of really how your life can almost become actually devastated and ruined. By doing this by just a little bit of greed by thinking it’s it’s too easy and just continuing going down that path. So we’re now we’re now a little bit for like, a few years removed now. Are there still impacts that you’re still seeing? Or is it is it is it started to kind of fizzle down now a little bit and you’re able to start moving on slowly fizzle down.

37:37
It’s been a slow process. But I mean, it’s taken quite some time. And, you know, even a few years past, it’s taken quite some time. You know, the effects are still there. Or they were as great as they were a couple years ago. No, but they’re still there. Hmm. So do you’re probably always will be. I mean, really, they probably always will be. And I Something that people got to think about that probably are when they’re doing it is that it doesn’t just affect you in a short run infection, the long run to it doesn’t just affect you

38:13
talk about a little bit with your parents or your other family members that when this was you know, even years later have they have they been able to look past it? Or are they still kind of holding it holding that in the back of their head?

38:30
You know, honestly, my family has grown to look past it. Now that I’ve gotten help and everything and the way I handled it. I mean, they still were very upset. I’m not trying to say they weren’t, you know, because they were but you know, they’ve grown to look past it in kind of like a second chance kind of thing.

38:52
Even though they were affected. How much whiskey did you sell? How much revenue did you make? You made a profit or gross

39:00
Gross in a year

39:02
or a year total what

39:06
the gross was maybe, let’s just say 75 75,000. That’s not that net. Obviously, there’s a big difference there, you know, but I would say that would be the gross.

39:18
So that’s a, for a lot of people. That’s a year’s wage.

39:22
Now, the net is much smaller than that. But yeah, sure.

39:26
So, you know, as we as we kind of start looking at wrapping this up a little bit, you know, I kind of want to also talk about because you’re a family man.

39:36
You have kids as well.

39:39
You want to you want to kind of try to anonymize a little story a little bit and kind of look at this was kind of like the breaking point as well, at least where we got involved, of really how this started affecting even your children’s lives.

39:55
Yeah, and that was one of the toughest things. You know, during this and you know, my kids They had to look up Google apparent saying, and, you know, during that the classmates, you know, we’re all there. And they saw my son, and my name as well, too. And he got, he received a very hard time from it. And when that was just crushed me, I mean, it just crushed me. Because obviously he didn’t have nothing you know what to do with this whatsoever and to see your son being effective, who’s young, you know, I mean, it’s very hard. That’s, that’s the hardest thing.

40:30
There is real heavy. He explained to him what happened or like, not to the fullest degree, you know,

40:35
right. No, no, I did not. He’s too young, I believe. Sure. Now, so sure.

40:43
You think one day I’ll find out?

40:45
Probably. Yeah, probably. And that’s the day I have to sit down and have a talk with a very hard talk. I mean, it’ll be a teaching lesson, but still be a very hard talk. This is something very ashamed of, you know, I mean I’m not I’m not proud of this I’m extremely ashamed of it. I mean, you know, it can’t go back in time obviously you know, this is one of these things where God I wish he could

41:14
so as we as we kind of finish this up and kind of kind of give people one last sort of message on if you if you think that you’re going on this path and you can we’re we’re all bourbon enthusiasts here we know what bottles look like you’ve already talked about being able to acquire some of these bottles and most of them if it’s just cheap plastic stuff that goes over top of it, you can get a you can get a hair dryer and get them blow Blow gun or heat gun and you can you can shrink wrap stuff pretty easily. Talk about it people that are out there thinking about it even just remotely thinking about it, like what’s the what’s the, the end state of where this is going to go to

41:57
people thinking about it, one you’re not just defrauding that one person unifying the whole entire group for one. So you’re not just going to have one person upset, you’re going to have a whole entire group coming after you. And on top of that, there’s so many things that can be damaged with your business, your family, your co workers and things like that. And there is no amount of money, there is no amount of money that is worth everything that you go through. There isn’t an NSA that with extreme confidence, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it whatsoever. Not even the first bottle because that’s all it takes us one. That’s all it takes. And from someone that’s done it, I mean, I just assure you, whoever’s thinking about doing this, the last thing you want to do, it’s the last thing you want to do. The repercussions are unbelievable. And is extremely hard, even years after it is. So not just from a business point, but I mean, you know, friendships, I mean, it’s hard all the way around. It really is. So It’s not worth the money.

43:02
And I guess one thing I forgot to ask you, you know, speaking with friendships, I’m sure you had friends outside of outside of bourbon and stuff like that, too. What was what was the reality of the situation? When they came to find out about stuff like this? They were shocked, because

43:15
they never saw that coming from me.

43:18
You know, I actually have a good friend who grew up with you, really? And he couldn’t believe it. And that’s Yeah.

43:26
And I’ll say, very difficult to, I’ll say this. You said it’s not worth the money.

43:33
What if you didn’t get caught? What if, what if you didn’t get caught? Hmm. And suddenly, it’s not 75,000 at 100 grand and it’s 200,000. And now you can buy something else. What if you didn’t get caught? Would have been worth the money then.

43:51
In my situation, if I wouldn’t have been thought, I don’t know if I’d be here today.

43:57
And I really don’t

44:00
Because that’s how bad of a problem I had.

44:05
So that’s what I can say with my personal self that I really don’t think I would have been. So this was almost a blessing. That idea is as weird as that sounds, but I’m just, I’m just being honest with you. It really was. Because I wouldn’t have stopped that addiction thing. You know, it would have had it taken something like this for me too, because that’s how powerful it is. So, with my situation, that’s what I can say with that.

44:36
Understand, but I hope you can also understand that myself and probably thousands of listeners, don’t feel sorry for you. Like I said, from what I understand that

44:46
and I don’t and I don’t blame them. And I completely understand that.

44:50
There’s a lot of people who try to use their addiction or whatever happened to them as excuses for what they did. And I’ve seen that time and time again. And you know, the fact is, you know, what do you look like in 510 15 years? JOHN? When when the the heat’s off? Yeah. What do they look like then? Are you maybe getting back in the game? Are you going to maybe try to counterfeit again? You say no now, but

45:23
there’s no way I would ever even remotely consider getting this again. And I mean, that

45:30
not even remotely. I mean, I will never sell a legitimate nothing, a bottle of bourbon again, I don’t want anything to do with bourbon after this, and I mean that. And I mean, it’s been a few years, and I haven’t and you won’t see it in a few years before. That there’s a lot of confidence in the world. I don’t want to go through anything like this again. I’m not even legitimately not even not even legit at me. I don’t want any I don’t want to be involved in it at all. I’m gonna hold you to that.

46:00
goes to places like in. And for me, this is like where the agreement for anonymity would end is like, if you’re caught selling

46:14
counterfeits again,

46:16
we blame you. I mean,

46:18
how people are human nature is they got away with something, they got paid or whatever. The heat’s on them goes away, and then they come back to it.

46:30
With dance in nature, I mean,

46:33
you’ll notice that I guess in the years to come, I guess that’s all I can say. But there’s no question about it with what I’ve been through. It doesn’t even cross my mind. There’s other ways she can make money. And I’m legitimately there’s other ways you can make money. And that’s the last thing I’m going to do. I mean, I mean, it’s not even consideration. There’s no way and I mean, legitimately as well, too. I don’t want no sales whatsoever with me. I have done in you will not see me do it in the future. And you know what, if you ever were to which you won’t destroy me, you know, but the second half of the second half?

47:14
Well, I know one person around here that’ll keep you keep you on. So

47:19
please, please keep up. I mean, you know.

47:22
Yeah. So john, I do want to say thank you again for, you know, having a having the courage to come on. I know this is not easy. It’s definitely not easy, and it’s definitely not easy putting a position like this. However, our real goal with today was to help not only just bring a story that’s never been heard before, but also to give other people the opportunity to understand what is the real ramifications of this type of activity. And when a community can really come down on you and really destroy not only just not only just a reputation, but Your family life and everything that comes in it’s it’s not just a week. It’s It’s It’s a lifetime. And that’s really what what it boils down to.

48:08
And I want to I want to go to this game, can you keep saying like the community did not destroy the choices? And I hope you I hope you agree with this. The choices you made, destroyed your reputation and your relationship. That’s wrong. Unity did not do that. Right. You’re exactly right choice.

48:25
You’re exactly right. It was only me. You’re 100%. Correct. And I appreciate you having me. All right. And I hope I could at least fence a couple of people out there, you know, that. Don’t even think about it. So I really do.

48:41
Again, thank you, at least from our side to say, telling your story. I think it’s again, valuable for people out there just to know it. And really, as I said, what the ramifications are. So if you want to learn more about bourbon pursuit, what we’re doing next one of the hot topics we’re hitting on, make sure you Follow us on social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as Fred medic, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You got the curation desk you’ve got Patreon you’ve got on the for all the lighter side all the lighter subjects a

49:11
little bit lighter in here you’re usually

49:14
yes this is this is a very serious subject today and

49:17
we know that given that it was a I mean for it I totally get where you’re coming from you know because it it is a trust community and the Trust has been broken and I’m you know, and maybe I’m taken advantage of but I do believe in redemption and I will just say you know you only get one chance and don’t screw it up and and you know, Fred one of their more so I can see the pain you know, and I can feel it I feel the tension so in especially when dealing with families of people that are thinking about it, I can I can tell you that this man has been through some with some some emotional stuff with people and and I just hope that never happens again with anyone or you and I’m glad we got Fred to keep me in

49:58
check. So Fred, I respect questions I agree with what you said seriously. So I really do

50:03
well I am I’ve been around a bit and I’ve seen a lot of

50:10
lot of people say things and you know repeat their actions I

50:14
could I could understand

50:15
you know, words are easy for sure I do I definitely do believe in like the forgiven forget. But to me that’s not just like a given to me that’s you got to earn it. For sure. And for me, this is this is a really nice first step for you earning that from from me and perhaps other people in the community. And I would say you know, a next step could be speaking to local authorities, because whether you whether you end up doing time for this or you enter a plea deal in which you help you help spot fakes or something and then community because fakes are rampant in the entire industry. You can’t walk through a major city without seeing a fake Pappy Van Winkle on, on display in a bar. There are bars all the time refilling their stuff. And you know something, most of the people who are in charge of like going around and making sure that the taxes are paid and people aren’t serving under age, they don’t care about that stuff. But that stuff is defrauding our community as much as you are. And for me, if you want that sweet redemption, if you want to be forgiven, if you want people to forget about it, you gotta do something to get the community you know, to support the community because right now the bourbon community is is hanging on by a thread with a lot of these lot of these fakes. Again, I said you are one point now there’s been numerous since a lot of them are Stealing straight from the distillery. And at the end of the day, you know, I’m genuinely I genuinely am coming to the point where I will not buy certain bottles unless I can validate them all the way to the original purchase. That’s where I am right now because I know how bad it is in the market. And it all unfortunately started with you. And so you take on more of more of an anger, more of a grievance for me, then I think, you know, if you were if, if you were like the fourth or fifth guy,

52:40
that I respect that and understand where I’m coming from, I can’t argue that. I mean, I respect that.

52:46
I’m glad you do. And I hope you I hope you consider my step two very seriously. Okay. All right. Thank you, Rhonda and close it out.

52:58
See you next time.

53:00
With attention was tight in there so yeah, honestly it was yeah not

53:02
the best host for these types

53:05
neither I usually I usually like to give it it lightened area

53:09
we get we get but no it is a definitely a serious subject yeah for it I’m glad you could ask the tough questions because I’m not so tough

53:17
It’s okay. Somebody somebody hears keep us real. But then again, thank you for everybody that was able to make it here today to be able to talk about this all the team involved and make sure that you stick around listen to bourbon pursuit next week, because we’ve always got new fun topics. So with that, we’ll see you all next week.

53:35
Cheers. Cheers.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

9 thoughts on “226 – EXCLUSIVE: Confessions of a Bourbon Counterfeiter

  1. Disappointed that more detail of how bottles are faked….what to look for other than comparing color or seal. No details were given on how “JON” faked a bottle or what brand of bottle he found most profitable to fake and why. Pretty much a waste of 25 min because all those who listened and are currently faking bottles are thinking is “what a dumbass for getting caught”. At least help us be better a spotting fakes. Otherwise y’all Rock. 🇺🇸🥃

  2. I enjoy learning about Bourbon and listening to some of your pod cast.

    Here is my unsolicited advice and feel free to ignore it. Do not interview con men. They have nothing to add the conversation. Counterfeiting is a important subject but I would rather discussions about counterfeiting with people that are trust worthy.

    I had to vent, please forgive me.

    Rich Zurek

  3. Chill out Fred! You are part of the course for concern in this “community” and how secondary prices get out of hand so quickly. Be careful when you throw that rock, it can bounce back and hot your glass house!

  4. You guys want to talk shit to the guy you’re interviewing do it off screen, no one else cares. It’s obvious YOU asked him to come do the interview so shut up and ask him some questions. Honestly being that much of a dick made me want to go start counterfeiting just to shove it in his face

  5. Can you post some pictures showing fakes? This would help people in the community that honestly love and trade bourbon understand what to look for.

  6. I thought Fred was a hard on the man being interviewed, I think it took a lot of guts to come on and talk about his misgivings, we all make mistakes, I felt he was honest and remorseful.

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