Shortly after dawn on July 18, members of a New York-based joint FBI-NYPD major theft task force descended on Sherry-Lehmann, once the most renowned of Manhattan wine shops. The agents spent the day toting out materials from the shop and loading them into unmarked white vans parked along the shop’s Park Avenue curb.
Asked to comment on the activity, the task force’s team leader referred Wine Spectator to the FBI press office. No response had been received at press time. What is certain, however, is that the team carried out its tasks with a search warrant. In keeping with the Fourth Amendment, no judge or magistrate will issue a search warrant unless evidence is presented that there is “probable cause” that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. There must also be probable cause that evidence of the crime will be found at the place to be searched.
A store in crisis
Sherry-Lehmann’s decline has been shocking to wine consumers. Beginning about 2020, it no longer delivered customers’ prepaid Bordeaux futures purchases, resulting in at least three lawsuits against the firm. Although Sherry-Lehmann once boasted a plenitude of top wines, last holiday season it had few to offer customers—the result of the firm’s failure to pay distributors.
In early March, the shop was shut down by the state liquor authority for failure to renew its retail license. The license was restored later in the month, but the shop never reopened. Meanwhile, former employees and clients have told Wine Spectator that highly valuable wines have been removed from Wine Caves, a wine storage facility owned by Sherry-Lehmann’s proprietors, without the owners’ knowledge.
In May, Sherry-Lehmann’s landlord warned in that if it did not receive $3.6 million in back rent by June 16, it would seek summary judgment to evict the firm from its premises. So far, that action appears not to have been taken.[article-img-container][src=2023-07/ns_sherry071923_1600.jpg] [credit= (Peter Hellman)] [alt= FBI at Sherry-Lehmann][end: article-img-container]
A federal judgment
The owners face multiple lawsuits. Wine Spectator has learned that KAL Wine Source, a major Bordeaux-based wine firm, charged in federal civil court in May that Sherry-Lehmann had failed to deliver numerous cases of 2019 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wines KAL had purchased last year for $251,904. The wines were personally sold to KAL by Shyda Gilmer, the firm’s CEO and co-owner with former hedge fund executive Kris Green.
“We bought those wines before the trouble with Sherry-Lehmann came out,” said a KAL representative. “It’s sad because we had always had a good relationship with the firm.” KAL also claimed that it had sold $121,950 worth of wines to Sherry-Lehmann that the store did not pay for. It further claimed that there was evidence of “passing of bad checks,” “common law fraud,” and ‘fraudulent conveyance” by Sherry-Lehmann.
Sherry-Lehmann did not respond to KAL’s complaint. On June 16, a New York federal judge approved KAL’s motion for default judgment in the amount of $251,904. A process server needed to serve notice of the judgment to Gilmer. He found him at Nobu 57, the exclusive midtown restaurant where Gilmer regularly lunches. A pretrial conference before the judge, Lewis J. Liman, is scheduled for July 20.
Neither Gilmer nor co-owner Kris Green responded to requests for comment on the status of their firm or on the lawsuit by KAL.
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator’s free Breaking News Alerts.
Source : https://www.winespectator.com/articles/fbi-and-new-york-police-raid-sherry-lehmann