A couple of excited tourists peek through the glass door of the exclusive hotel-restaurant Atrio (Cáceres), with two Michelin stars. With exquisite education, the head waiter welcomes them in the same way that on October 26, 2021 he received Priscilla Lara Guevara (28 years old, Mexico), one day before he stole 45 bottles of wine valued at 1.6 million euros with his partner, Costantín Gabriel (47 years old, Romania).
—Good morning, do you want to see the warehouse?
-Of course. I came many years ago, but my wife did not.
Despite attending dozens of clients who stay, eat or dine in the Atrium every day, Carmina Márquez (59 years old, Cáceres), remembers exactly what the thieves looked like: “She wore a wig and glasses that came large”. The director of the hotel checked her DNI, before she paid with a prepaid card the 300 euros (plus VAT) for her stay. “Are you going to give it back to me?” The woman insisted, while Márquez wrote down the data of her newcomer. Priscilla announced that she would have dinner at the hotel restaurant with a companion that night. Costantin arrived. “She had light eyes. He was very cachazudo, with a shirt that marked everything. To load so many bottles he had to be… ”, recalls the director.
Dressed in a suit and tie, the meter —who prefers not to reveal his identity— accompanied them to visit the winery. In a visit of just five minutes, he made a brief review of the origin and age of the most relevant wines. The thieves generously left a tip. “They spoke in Spanish and broken English,” says the employee. From that day on, taking photos or recording in the basement is prohibited.
The couple savored the tasting menu (195 euros per person, plus VAT). Stomach full, they went up to the room. However, at 01:30 in the morning, Priscilla telephoned the receptionist to bring her a salad. The kitchen was closed, but at the woman’s insistence, the clerk reluctantly agreed to the request.
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Costantín took the opportunity to go down to the hall and steal the magnetic card that opened the cellar. With his face hidden by the mask, the thief opened the door with ease. In just 10 seconds he was speeding away loaded with three backpacks, one in each hand and another on his back. The employees discovered that the towels were missing from the room, supposedly used to protect the bottles and prevent noise when transporting them. For four hours they remained in the bedroom until leaving the accommodation at 05:30. A robbery without violence. Clean and thought to the millimeter.
Guevara and Gabriel scheduled a highway escape in which they would alternate several vehicles. The first of them was located and “remains parked in the same spot where they left it,” explains Luis Carlos Caballera, head of the Cáceres Judicial Police brigade. The next day they had booked a table at a famous restaurant in Madrid with a cellar similar to Atrio’s. They canceled the reservation. They had already committed the theft of their lives. The inspector indicates the first hypothesis of the crime: “We know that they were dedicated to the sale of these wines. Some may have been sold, but others are very difficult to place on the market.”
Catching them has not been an easy task. Together they undertook a tour of Europe using false passports, reaching Romania – where the man was born in 1975 – and the Netherlands. The latter, on several occasions. An accident interrupted the route. Gabriel had to return to his habitual residence, a rental apartment in the Barajas district that he shared with Priscilla, due to the death of his daughter. Event of which Caballera did not want to give more details.
Last week, after seven months of investigation, the police located them in Slovenia on their way to Croatia, knowing that they would make the same journey back. They were arrested south of the Croatian border while trying to board a German-registered Lexus from Montenegro at the Karasovi Sutorina border post. There they were arrested this Tuesday based on the European arrest and surrender warrant (OEDE) requested by the National Police. Within a period of no more than 10 days, his extradition to Spain is expected to be carried out, according to Alfredo Garrido López, superior chief of the Extremadura Police.
Toño Pérez —chef and manager of Atrio together with his partner José Polo— has had a strange joy running through his body since yesterday he found out about the arrest via Twitter. The man, who accumulates stacks of books on art and painting on the lobby tables, explains the sentimental value of the bottle that crowned the work of 35 years as a collector: a Chateau d’Yquem from the year 1806, valued at 310,000 euros. “Think of a Picasso gallery owner who didn’t sell his paintings to enrich himself and suddenly they take everything away from him, that’s us,” he explains. “The detention is fine, it is a step. But they don’t matter to me, neither does the money. We will be happy when the bottle appears ”, he sentences.