WEST ALLIS — The city has closed Bunty's Liquor store, where criminal investigators say 150 cases of stolen vodka were found.
"He had 150 cases of stolen liquor in the basement, segregated and hidden," Alderman Tom Lajsic said of Bunty's, 8423 W. Cleveland Ave.
The Common Council revoked Bunty's license earlier his month.
Two Greenfield men and one from West Allis are charged in the thefts that top $57,700, nearly all liquor. Only some went to Bunty's, according to the criminal complaint filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
"We need to send a strong message that we're watching, and this is not going to be tolerated," Lajsic said.
The city attorney's office recommended revoking the store's license.
That recommendation was based on the large quality of stolen merchandise found, said Nick Cerwin, assistant city attorney.
Instead, the city's license committee, after holding a hearing last month, recommended suspending the store's license for 45 days. That recommendation was later overturned by the council.
Alderman Michael Czaplewski, committee chairman, supported the committee's recommendation, saying there was room for doubt.
"At the beginning, he thought it may be stolen, but he really didn't know," Czaplewski said. However, he acknowledged that he did know on subsequent buys, Czaplewski said.
"He said he didn't sell it," he said, so there may have been a little conscience coming into play, Czaplewski said.
Might be gone
Besides he said, "Forty-five days might have put him out of business, anyway." That would have been the length of the suspension.
More than 80 percent of small businesses can't survive a revenue drought of two or three months, he said.
If he survived, the owner would have learned his lesson, Czaplewski said.
Bunty's and a liquor store in Waterford are believed to have bought liquor stolen by three men who now face a charge of theft from a business. The thefts totaling more than $57,700 were from the New Berlin warehouse where all three worked.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office will have to decide whether to charge Bunty's with receiving stolen property, Cerwin said. The city would be unlikely to pursue the case itself, he said.
Charged are Joshua Dempsey, 25, of 4748 S. 68th St., Greenfield; Earl Roberts, 32, of 3800 W. Cold Spring Road, Greenfield; and James Stadney, 47, of 8206 W. Lapham St., West Allis. If convicted, the maximum sentence for each is 10 years in prison.
All three worked at General Beverage Sales Co., 16255 W. Stratton Drive, New Berlin. The thefts are believed to have taken place in a roughly eight-month period from Nov. 26, 2015, to Aug. 5, 2016, according to the criminal complaint.
Video surveillance from Aug. 5, 2016, shows two pallets of vodka being loaded into a delivery truck that was not scheduled to deliver vodka that day, according to the complaint. The value of the two pallets of vodka was estimated at $9,180.
The suspects didn't know the surveillance cameras were on, the complaint says. The stolen vodka was stored temporarily in Stadney's garage, the complaint alleges. The liquor was later sold to the two stores, it says.
New Berlin police have uncovered 20 thefts in addition to the two pallets of vodka on Aug. 5, the complaint says. No total was given for how much property is alleged to have been stolen, but the major incidents the complaint does note top $48,000 in liquor, plus a $700 company Moped that was stolen and sold.