MIKE FAHER, Brattleboro Reformer
BRATTLEBORO -- A New York man has agreed to forfeit more than 2,200 bottles of liquor seized during a Putney traffic stop in December.
Andy Chan, 34, of Flushing, N.Y., pleaded guilty on Tuesday to illegally transporting the alcohol, which had been purchased in New Hampshire and was valued by Vermont State Police at more than $44,000.
Chan will pay a $700 fine and $252 in court costs, documents show. Still unresolved is the fate of his van, which also was seized after the Dec. 28 traffic stop on Interstate 91.
"The state hasn’t made a final decision on whether we are going forward with the forfeiture of the car," Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Brown said. "The car right now is in police custody."
Vermont State Police Trooper Max Trenosky said he was watching southbound traffic on I-91 when he spotted a white Ford Econoline van. In an affidavit, Trenosky writes that he stopped the van because it was traveling in the left lane and "not passing anyone" and because of defective rear license-plate lights.
Upon approaching the van, Trenosky looked into windows in the rear and on the passenger side and "immediately observed dozens of boxes labeled Hennessy."
"The defendant advised he was traveling back home and specified New York City," the affidavit says. "The defendant stated that he worked in a restaurant and had liquor with him that he had purchased in New Hampshire. The defendant stated, ‘Prices cheap.’"
Trenosky asked Chan "how many boxes he had purchased, and he did not know," court documents say. "The defendant advised that he paid around $20,000 for the liquor."
The trooper added that "these facts and circumstances fit the mold of someone trying to smuggle liquor from New Hampshire to New York City where a profit could be made."
Vermont law says "all spirituous liquors imported or transported intothis state shall be imported or transported by and through the Liquor Control Board."
A person can legally import or transport up to eight quarts of liquor "in his or her own private vehicle or in his or her actual possession at the time of importation without license or permit," the statute says. Any larger quantity must be handled through the state.
Violations carry maximum penalties of one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Trenosky said he called for backup, and a tow truck transported Chan’s van to the Brattleboro State Police barracks. Inside, police say they found 192 boxes of liquor:
* 128 boxes of Hennessy 375 milliliter bottles (12 bottles per box).
* 26 boxes of Hennessy 1 liter bottles (12 bottles per box).
* 10 boxes of Absolut Vodka 1.75 liter bottles (six bottles per box).
* 28 boxes of Grey Goose Vodka 750 milliliter bottles (12 bottles per box).
Using a New Hampshire liquor-buying guide, Trenosky calculated the approximate value of the booze at $44,200.
After the traffic stop, Chan was released with a citation to appear in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division on Tuesday for arraignment. He pleaded guilty to the charge and agreed to the liquor forfeiture as part of that agreement, court documents say.
Alcohol forfeited to the state Department of Liquor Control "will be sold through Vermont Liquor Agencies," said William Goggins, the department’s chief of education, licensing and enforcement.
That means the liquor could be resold to consumers through Vermont liquor outlets, Goggins confirmed.