According to the FBI, “guys with British accents” posing as whiskey and wine experts have conned at least 150 senior citizens out of $13 million.
Three firms were allegedly used in the five-year-long scheme, which allegedly involved defrauding investors by promising them large returns on their investments in expensive whiskeys and rare wines.
To deceive potential investors, con artists would create fictitious identities like “Elliot Stewart.”
Casey Alexander, who resides in England, has been accused by the authorities of conspiring to commit wire fraud.
According to court documents obtained by the Washington Post, an unidentified 89-year-old from Ohio spent $300,000 on expensive dessert wines and what appears to be a storage unit in France.
After learning that the Chinese market would yield a 40% return, a 73-year-old man from Michigan spent $85,000.
Investigators claim that the three businesses, Windsor Jones, Charles Winn, and Vintage Whisky Casks, employed “aggressive and deceitful techniques.”
On its website, Windsor Jones advertises the sale of “Luxury Fine Wins” from Bordeaux and includes a video from Gordon Ramsey-trained master sommelier Ronan Sayburn.
He said to The Times, “I never heard about them or gave them permission to use any of my stuff.”
A US-registered company called Vintage Whisky Casks was able to link all of its funding to American investors. Records showed that Alexander was listed as an officer of the company and that he earned $33,000 from the account.
Using a network of limited liability companies to defraud its customers, the scheme obtained the phone numbers of elderly US residents and cold-called them, ignoring them or making excuses when they asked to withdraw their money when they became concerned.
When the 89-year-old Ohio resident reported the incident to the police, they forwarded it to the FBI.
Using a network of limited liability businesses to scam its consumers, the scheme gathered the phone numbers of elderly US residents and cold-called them, ignoring them or making excuses when they wanted to withdraw their money when they got concerned.
Two of the three businesses, Charles Winn and Vintage Whisky Casks, purportedly employed an informant who provided the FBI with information.
He admitted to Federal agents that he hadn’t done any investigation on the company and that he had taken the position when his wife was ill. He made the decision to turn them in after learning what their plan comprised.
Three states sent cease-and-desist letters to the network of businesses, which they all disregarded.
Potential investors were contacted by the Bureau, who instructed them to cancel their payments, saving roughly $466,000.
Then, in exchange for a lighter sentence, federal officials contacted a cooperating witness from Cuyahoga County, Ohio, who volunteered to pose as a potential investor for the FBI.
The undercover investor had been accused of securities fraud in a separate case, but when discovered, he consented to work for the agency.
In order to advance in the company, he consented to speak with and schedule meetings with employees.
By working with the undercover investors, who set up a meeting with Alexander and gave a pitch for whiskey investments, the informant inside the trio of companies alerted the FBI that Alexander would be flying from England to Ohio.
The FBI subsequently detained Alexander on June 14 after waiting for the appropriate time.
According to court documents, he was freed after posting a $50,000 bond.