After nine months of hide-and-seek, wine thieves, a former Mexican beauty queen, and her accomplice were finally seized in Croatia over wine robbery. They robbed Atrio, a popular hotel establishment situated in Caceres’ walled city in western Spain. It features an in-house restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Wine Robbery in Atrio Hotel-Restaurant
The former Miss Earth State of Mexico, 29-year-old Priscila Lara Guevara, used a fake Swiss identity card. She wore a brown wig, a mask, and sunglasses. when she entered the hotel. She informed the receptionist that she’ll be having dinner with a companion that night.
Her Romanian-Dutch accomplice, 49-year-old Constantín Gabriel Dumitru reserved a room in the Atrio hotel-restaurant in Caceres, Spain using the name Mirka Golubic.
It wasn’t the first time the two suspects ate in the same restaurant. In fact, they had dinner together in the said popular restaurant thrice. That was in June, August, and September.
The National Police investigators who tracked Guevara and Dumitru believed that the wine thieves’ visits were the first stage of the accomplished wine robbery last year of October 27, 2021 in Caceres’ western city. The pair stole 45 bottles of the best wines valued at €1.7 million.
Atrio’s tradition after dinner is to allow guests to visit its historic winery which could hold 40,000 bottles of wine. Both suspects took advantage of it but Dumitru didn’t register at the lodging.
It was past one o’clock in the morning when Guevara asked the remaining receptionist prepare a salad, which the later agreed even though the kitchen is already closed.
The investigators concluded that while Guevara talks to the waiter, Dumitru took the chance to slip into the cellar located in the basement, carrying three empty backpacks. How he managed to get inside isn’t clear. He took 45 bottles of wine and slid them in his bagpacks. French BordeauxChateau d’ Yquem from 1806 is one of the best wines he took valued at €310,000 and six other wines made in the 19th century.
“These bottles are part of my personal history, of the history of Atrio, but also of Cáceres, of its citizens, of all lovers of the world of wine,” said chef Toño Pérez.
The Pursuit of the Wine Thieves Began
Based on research sources, the couple’s coordinated actions were recorded and studied with the help of the hotel cameras. The couple left Atrio at 5 o’clock in the morning. They wrapped the bottles in towels to prevent breakage they put them into their backpacks.
The next day, Atrio’s wine robbery became the talk of the town. The precision in the robbery made the investigators believe that it was an organized group behind the robbery.
The said priceless wines are rare and difficult to replace and had been aged for 215 years of Spain history, of wars, eras of peace and the establishment of a united Europe.
It took months before the Central Unit for Specialized and Violent Crime (UDEV) and Cáceres Judicial Police investigators identified them. They found out that Dumitru was the same man arrested twice in Madrid who stole valuable bottles of wine from gourmet stores. He stayed in Caceres together with Guevara during that time.
The investigators went into the wine thieves’ place but didn’t find them there. According to sources, both of them already left a few days after the wine robbery. Despite the identification of the perpetrators, the authorities lost track of them.
End of Wine Robbery: Thieves Captured at Last!
The cooperation between the authorities and other countries resulted in digging new important information about the wine thieves. They had news about Dumitru who was in Romania in January 2022 where he made passport renewal. Moreover, they have learned that he also faced arrest when he stole bottles of wine at a Duty Free shop in a Geneva airport in Switzerland.
The investigators entered Guevara and Dumitru’s data in the international police databases for their detection in any of the Member States. Last week, they received an intelligence that the two were spotted at the border crossing from Slovenia to Croatia.
The Caceres judge at the Investigating Court No. 4 issued a European arrest warrant immediately. The Croatian authorities seized them as they returned to the country from Montenegro. They will face charges in Spain about the wine robbery in Atrio. However, the 45 bottles of wine never appeared.
The Spanish authorities worked with counterparts in Romania, Croatia, the Netherlands, and the Interpol to catch Guevara and Dumitru.
Image Source: Megan Mallen/WikimediaCommons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)