SANTA ANA, Calif. -- The operator of a California business where the public can store wine bottles has been charged with stealing nearly $3 million in vintage wines from clients' storage lockers.
George Osumi, 64, of Newport Beach was charged with burglary, grand theft and other counts, and could face more than 16 years in prison if convicted, the district attorney's office said.
Osumi's arraignment in Orange County Superior Court was postponed from Friday until Nov. 2. He is being held on $4 million bail.
Defense attorney James Riddet, who represents Osumi in a separate tax and insurance fraud case, declined to comment on the latest charges.
Prosecutors said Osumi _ who operated Legend Cellars in Irvine between 2008 and 2012 _ entered the private storage lockers of three different clients and took bottles of wine totaling $2.7 million in value and replaced them with cheaper brands.
Osumi then hired a friend to auction off some of the stolen wine and sold some of it himself, prosecutors said.
Authorities were tipped off when a client's relative reported to police that wine in the storage locker had been replaced with a cheap substitute. One client had more than 1,400 bottles taken, said Shaddi Kamiabipour, deputy district attorney.
"In order for his customers to not realize he was taking the wine, he left the boxes there," Kamiabipour said, adding that clients believed they were the only ones who had access to their locked storage spaces. "But he'd replace the wine with Two Buck Chucks."
"When you have thousands of cases, you're not going to know if you're missing wine unless you actually pick up the box and look inside and say, wait a second, this box doesn't actually go with the wine."
Osumi was arrested last week.
No one at Legend Cellars _ which bills itself as Orange County's premier wine storage facility _ answered the phone on Friday.