Man wanted in Groton wine theft being sought in 7 other communities

Groton — The so-called high-end wine thief who allegedly struck Octagon restaurant in Groton also is being investigated in at least seven other thefts.

The man made national news last week when — seemingly unaware he was on camera — he sauntered into a closed-off section of the Mystic Marriott's Octagon restaurant and allegedly stole a bottle of wine priced at almost $5,000.

Within days, Groton Town Police named 25-year-old Scott Deluca — whose last known address they said is in the Cohoes-Wynantskill area of New York — as the suspect and began searching for similar cases of high-end wine theft.

According to town police, Deluca is being investigated in shoplifting incidents in seven other communities: Bloomfield, East Setauket, N.Y., and the New Jersey communities of Bernardsville, Madison, Union County Springfield Township, Voorhees and Woodcliff Lake.

Groton Police Lt. John Varone said the suspect doesn't seem to have one specific modus operandi.

In some cases, Varone said, the perpetrator has used distraction, as appears to be the case in an Aug. 24 theft at a liquor store in Woodcliff Lake. Police there said Deluca is a person of interest.

In that theft, according to northjersey.com, "a white 20-something man went to the back of the store and brought a bottle of wine to the service counter and told store personnel that he had left his identification in his car."

The report said the man did not return to purchase the bottle. An employee later found a $500 bottle of wine missing.

The Bernardsville News reported a similar story about the Sept. 9 theft at Gary's Wine and Marketplace that led the Somerset County prosecutor to charge Deluca with shoplifting on Monday.

According to the newspaper, police said the suspect tried to purchase a regularly-priced bottle of wine after asking for — and getting — access to the store's locked room of higher-end wines.

He then said he left his cash in the car, left the bottle on the counter and didn't return, according to the paper.

Employees later learned two bottles — one worth $999, the other $859 — were missing, The Bernardsville News reported.

In other incidents, Varone said, the suspect has conducted "blatant shoplifting."

In a surveillance video released by Gillette Ridge Wines in Bloomfield, a man who fits Deluca's profile wrestles with a store employee after she grabs his bulging shirt.

A bottle of wine, reportedly worth $200, can be seen in the man's hands as he dashes from the store.

According to owner Anand Palani, the suspect first came in to the store in late July, allegedly taking with him an $800 bottle of wine at that time.

Palani said he and other workers recognized the man when he allegedly returned Aug. 12 and intentionally "gave him a chance to do his thing." The surveillance video that's been circulated resulted from the August incident.

The theft in East Setauket was reported in tbrnewsmedia.com's Sept. 15 police blotter and a video the Suffolk County Police Department posted on YouTube.

"Police said an unidentified man took a bottle of Petrus Bordeaux wine from Hamlet Wines & Liquors store in East Setauket on Sept. 12, putting the bottle down his pants and fleeing the store on foot," tbrnewsmedia.com reported.

The Suffolk County Police Department, which oversees East Setauket, confirmed this week that police are investigating whether the man responsible for the Bernardsville theft is connected to the one in East Setauket.

A video of the incident on the Town of Groton Police Department Facebook page shows the suspect walking around an empty dining room for several seconds before entering the area where restaurant staff have said the 1990 Chateau Petrus was stored.

The wine was priced at $4,799 on wine.com before it sold out online.

Varone said Deluca, for whom police have an arrest warrant for third-degree larceny, has no apparent connection to the Groton area.

Varone said there's also a warrant for Deluca's arrest in New York.

The Associated Press reported Deluca has been seen driving a dark-colored 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee with New York "Adirondack" personalized vanity license plates bearing the letters "SPA ND."

Varone said there is not yet any evidence as to whether and/or how the individual responsible for the thefts is disposing of the bottles.

Police are asking anyone with information regarding Deluca's whereabouts to call them at (860) 441-6712 or to click on the "contact us" button on the department's Facebook page.

l.boyle@theday.com

Twitter: @LindsayABoyle

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