TRENTON, N.J., May 23 (UPI) -- Twenty-nine New Jersey establishments, including 13 TGI Fridays locations, passed off non-premium spirits as premium alcoholic beverage brands, officials said.
New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Michael Halfacre said Thursday the restaurants and bars were caught up in "Operation Swill," with raids carried out Wednesday by more than 100 beverage control and Division of Criminal Justice investigators.
Chiesa and Halfacre said in a release the customers at the establishments paid for premium brand alcohol but were served the non-premium brand.
"This alleged scheme is a dishonest ruse to increase profits, and it is a slap in the face to the consumer," Chiesa said.
Investigators executing the raids seized all opened bottles of brands including Smirnoff, Absolut and Grey Goose vodka; Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire and Gordon's gin; Bacardi Light, Bacardi Dark and Captain Morgan Spiced rum; Johnny Walker Black and Dewar's Scotch; Jack Daniel's Black Label, Jim Beam and Maker's Mark whiskey; and Jose Cuervo Silver, Jose Cuervo Gold and Patron Silver tequila -- about 1,000 bottles in all.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Investigations Bureau and representatives of the manufacturers will subject the confiscated alcohol to testing.
"Operation Swill" grew out of information provided by informants, consumer complaints and testing of samples, the statement said.
Investigators visited 63 licensed establishments in January and February, including some that had been the subject of past complaints, and gathered samples by ordering drinks with no ice or mixer.
Halfacre said his office handles numerous complaints about the practice every year but violations are hard to prove because "evidence of the offense is nearly impossible to collect after the fact."