April 13, 2024

Police in Southern California are investigating a theft at a high-end wine shop where, according to the store, a burglar drilled a hole into its roof, descended via rope and stole around 600 bottles of wine and liquor worth over $500,000.

After descending into the wine cellar of Lincoln Fine Wines in Los Angeles’ Venice neighborhood at around 12:30 a.m. Friday, the burglar – clad in a mask, black hoodie and red baseball cap – could be seen on surveillance footage covering the lens of the cellar’s security camera, according to store manager Nick Martinelle.

“It was like something out of ‘Ocean’s Eleven.’ We just couldn’t believe it,” Martinelle told CNN. The tape from the back of a “Smile: You’re on Camera” sign stuck to the cellar’s door was used to conceal the camera, he said.

During the theft, which lasted for an estimated four hours, the thief looted the wine cellar of some of the store’s rarest and most expensive wines and liquors.

The owner of the shop, Nazmul Haque, said he has been unable to sleep soundly since the incident.

“It is very hard for me to digest. All my hard work snatched within a couple hours,” Haque said.

Surveillance video shows a burglar inside the store's wine cellar - Courtesy Lincoln Fine WInes

Surveillance video shows a burglar inside the store’s wine cellar – Courtesy Lincoln Fine WInes© Provided by CNN

When the thief exited the wine cellar to begin stealing from the store’s main shelves at around 4 a.m., the store’s sensors alerted Haque, he says, who was at home and asleep. The burglar fled as an alarm went off.

Haque arrived at the store at 4:50 a.m. and says a shaft of early morning light streamed in from the hole in the rooftop, illuminating a scene of empty shelves and shattered glass.

Many of the stolen bottles are irreplaceable, according to Martinelle, including their collection of Quintarelli wines. Other pilfered bottles include The Last Drop – a rare Scotch whisky whose 1971 edition is worth $6,000 – and a bottle of Chateau Petrus 2016, which sells for as much as $4,500, according to the store.

Every bottle on the cellar’s French wall, with an average worth of $1,000 each, was taken, according to Martinelle. The store is assembling a list of missing bottles to distribute to local buyers and auction houses in hopes of narrowing down the identity of the thief or thieves.

Martinelle called the theft “creepy” in that the thief knew the location of the cellar from the roof and targeted particularly expensive wines, some of which were in drawers rather than on display. Other wine shops near Los Angeles that have experienced burglaries have reached out, he said.

“I’m still in shock and in disbelief,” Martinelle said. “It was really surreal.”

Haque describes receiving an outpouring of love and support from customers and vendors since the theft. Some customers who Haque hadn’t seen since before the Covid-19 pandemic came to visit this week, buying “three or four bottles more” than they normally would, he said.

“They’re here to support me. That’s a very strong message to me,” Haque said. “That helped me a lot to recover from the emotional stress.”

The incident is under investigation, Los Angeles police told CNN.

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