Federal authorities still won’t say why they raided Hermes Vineyards in November.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently denied the Register’s request for federal records documenting the raid.
“The information you seek pertains to an ongoing investigative matter and all records are therefore exempt from mandatory disclosure …,” the USDA’s denial letter states. “To release any information at this time could interfere with the ability of the investigators to develop relevant evidence and may jeopardize the investigation.”
It’s a standard line given by federal agencies when denying a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, the federal equivalent of Ohio’s Sunshine Law.
This much is known: On Nov. 2, armed federal agents wearing bulletproof vests stormed Hermes Vineyards and seized some documents.
Then, they disappeared.
Perkins police, who were on hand to provide local support, denied knowing any details of the raid.
Perkins police assistant Chief Robb Parthemore later admitted to having contact with federal agents in the days leading up to the raid, but he said he didn’t know the specifics. In fact, he couldn’t even name the exact federal agency that was involved.
The Register contacted almost half a dozen federal employees before pinpointing the employee responsible for maintaining the records in the case.
Winery employees have also refused to comment. One said she’d been instructed not to talk about what happened.
Federal documents show that winery owner Dr. David Kraus, a New York-based psychiatrist, took out a federal small business loan in 2007.
A local law enforcement officer who didn’t want to be named said the investigation relates to unpaid federal loans.
The Register is in the process of appealing the USDA’s denial of the records request.