Pennsylvania Alcohol Revenue Regime Grabs Wine Collection

The Keystone State’s alcohol revenue regime means that couples can be robbed for building and sharing a wine collection.

2 glasses of wine

Prohibition is alive and well.

At Reason.com, Baylen Linnekin writes about the seizure of an $160,000 wine collection from a married couple:

Earlier this year, after a months-long undercover investigation, Pennsylvania state police agents served a warrant on the home of Arthur Goldman, an attorney, and his wife, Melissa Kurtzman.

The police, who had made undercover buys at the home before, easily found what they were looking for. And they found lots of it. In a raid that lasted twenty hours, police seized thousands of ounces of alleged contraband from the couple’s home.

In addition to the seizure, police charged Mr. Goldman with a crime.

So just what was it that led police to target the homeowners? Cocaine? Marijuana? Meth? Raw milk?

None of the above. This bizarre and infuriating case involves no illicit substance whatsoever. It’s a case about wine. Legally purchased wine, at that.

The story she tells is bizarre, not least because it seems to involve a genuinely generous and social lawyer who was into wine and liked to share his passion. (This is probably a false stereotype, but it is mentioned in the post so I thought I would relay it here).

[See also, “Pennsylvania AG Uses “Racism” Smear to Cover Up Corruption.”]

This private generosity was treated like a suspicious activity that warranted undercover police work.

[W]hile Goldman’s and his wife’s wine collection slept soundly at their New Jersey home, an “anonymous complainant reported” Goldman to Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BCLE) for allegedly selling wine in Pennsylvania without a license.

It’s unclear who the informant is or what they claimed Goldman had done. But that same month, an undercover BCLE officer “infiltrated… Mr. Goldman’s mailing list.” The officer then made a buy (to use undercover cop parlance), joining in one of Goldman’s pooled orders from California.

This officer was soon joined on the list by another undercover officer, who posed as his stepdaughter, and still another officer, who posed as the second officer’s fiance. These officers also joined in the pooled orders.

Continuing with his generosity, Goldman shared glasses of his own wine with the undercover officers in his home. He gave them a tour of his wine cellar, which by July 2014 was located in his Malvern home, now the marital residence.

Note: one of the complications in this case is the fact that the couple had two residences when they got married. Most of the wine was purchased and housed at the New Jersey residence but was eventually moved to Pennsylvania when that became their primary residence.

Testing the limits of that generosity, the officers concocted a story about looking for a special wedding gift of wine. Though Goldman wasn’t in the business of selling wine, he made an exception, selling to undercover agents a total of four or five bottles—at cost—from his personal collection.

Soon afterwards, on January, 6, 2014, Pennsylvania police raided the home and seized more than 2,400 bottles of wine. They charged Goldman was an unlicensed wine dealer who made purchases in contravention of state law, and that his alleged crimes required Pennsylvania to destroy the entirety of the couple’s wine collection—worth an estimated $160,000.

This is happening in the United States—land of the freeloader and home of the slave.