Massachusetts Attorney General Sues Online Alcohol Retailers

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly has filed a lawsuit against seven online alcohol stores for selling alcohol to minors, the Boston Globe reported June 9.

The lawsuit was filed after Reilly’s office conducted a sting operation in which teenagers were able to purchase more than 50 bottles of wine and hard liquor and several six-packs of beer online in 2002 and 2004. The teens made the purchases simply by entering a credit-card number at the online liquor-store websites.

The lawsuit claims that seven online liquor retailers violated the Massachusetts Liquor Control Act. The online stores named for selling liquor to minors were Geerlings & Wade of Canton, Mass., Wine.com of San Francisco, Calif., The Wine Messenger of New Rochelle, N.Y., Sherry-Lehmann Wines and Spirits of New York, Wine Globe of San Mateo, Calif., Queen Anne Wine & Spirit Emporium of Teaneck, N.J., and Clubs of America of Lakemoor, Ill. The latter four also were charged with selling alcohol in Massachusetts without a state liquor license.

“We all have a responsibility when it comes to protecting our children,” Reilly said. “I’ve seen lives ruined. I’ve seen lives lost. It’s not just the child, but the family. That’s why the sale of alcohol is regulated; the laws are designed to protect the children.”

Kevin Roche, owner of Queen Anne Wine & Spirit Emporium, said his website clearly states that buyers must be age 21 or older. He said that the shippers his company uses, including United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express, should check identification upon delivery.

“UPS has the person delivering the package asking about age,” he said. “You don’t really have a choice but to believe that they’re doing that. There’s no other method we can use except that.”

Representatives from UPS and Federal Express said the companies are conducting their own investigation and would cooperate fully with the state’s probe.