WASHINGTON — Two men have been arrested and charged with stealing cases of liquor from Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control, and one is a DLC worker.
The string of eight thefts happened between Valentine’s Day and May 28. People hopped fences and stole alcohol from trucks at the department’s warehouse, on Edison Drive in Gaithersburg, the Montgomery County police said in a statement. The stolen liquor was valued at nearly $22,000.
The two men charged are Kelvin Snowden Jr., 31, of Gaithersburg, a DLC employee, and Jean Auguste, 27, of Lanham.
The thefts happened on Feb. 14 and 24, April 23 and 30, and May 7, 16, 26 and 28. On May 28, police said, DLC security saw the theft in progress and called the police. They found a vehicle in the adjacent parking lot with Auguste behind the wheel and boxes of liquor from the DLC in the back seat, the police statement said. He was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary and theft and is out on bond.
Police said that their investigation pointed to Snowden as the one who stole the alcohol and, at least on May 28, sold the liquor to Auguste. Snowden was arrested Thursday and charged with theft offenses and malicious destruction of property, the police said. Bond information wasn’t yet available; Snowden is on unpaid leave from his job pending the outcome of the case.
Robert Dorfman, director of the DLC, said the police did a great job in handling the case. The suspects “were wearing a hood each time; … it was about 3 or 3:30 in the morning, so it was difficult to determine who [the thief] was.”
The county’s DLC, which controls liquor distribution in Montgomery County, has been roundly criticized by a group of restaurants and bars in the past few years. Business owners complained of inefficiencies and lost or never-delivered orders, and signed on to state bills designed to force the DLC to compete with private distributors.
While critics have jumped on the thefts as yet another sign that the county should abandon its role as liquor distributor, Dorfman said the case should be seen in a different way: An agency under new management spotted a problem, promptly reported it, and followed through.
Dorfman, a former Marriott executive who has extensive experience in the restaurant industry, was brought on board in January and says he’s working to change the culture of the department. He wants employees to see themselves as working for a competitive business, not as a government agency. “We’re repositioning the business so that our customers feel like each day we work to earn their business, as opposed to them feeling like they have no choice.”