One company claims on its website that purchasing its whiskey can “help you acquire a piece of history”. Another says he specializes in acquiring and selling the “world’s most illustrious, exciting and enjoyable Investment Grade wines.”
But according to federal court records, officials from the two companies and a third firm used an elaborate scheme to defraud more than 150 people across the United States, mostly seniors, out of more than $13 million. by promising returns on whiskeys and fine wines – returns they never received.
The charges are included in an affidavit filed in federal court in Ohio in connection with the arrest last week of Casey Alexander, a British citizen who authorities say participated in the scheme, originally from Britain.
Mr. Alexander and “other unknown co-conspirators” have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the scheme, according to court documents filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Mr. Alexander was released on $50,000 bond, according to court records. His attorney, John J. Spellacy, did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
The three companies, Charles Winn LLC, Windsor Jones LLC and Vintage Whiskey Casks LLC, each have addresses in Delaware, according to court documents. None of the three companies responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Company officials cold called dozens of people and persuaded them to wire funds or write checks to their companies, Matthew E. Scalisi, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in the affidavit.
The co-conspirators, he added, used “aggressive and deceptive tactics”, false names and the promise to store the fine wines and whiskeys in a warehouse in Britain, while they accumulated money. the value.
After the initial investment, the conspirators kept in touch with the targeted individuals via email and telephone, persuading them to continue investing with the promise of “even greater returns”, according to the affidavit.
Daniel Ball, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, declined to comment on the case on Tuesday.
Court documents say the FBI became aware of the scheme in April 2020, after the son of an 89-year-old man who had been targeted notified police in Highland Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.
The man told authorities his father was defrauded of more than $300,000 by one of the companies, Charles Winn. The man said his father believed he was investing in ‘rare dessert wines’ which would increase in value over time.
According to court documents, Charles Winn LLC is registered in Delaware and is “headquartered” in Britain.
Several other complaints were filed with Highland Police in 2019, according to court documents, with victims reporting that they were cold-called by a “Robert Wilson” or a “Sebastian Renner” who claimed to represent Charles Winn, LLC .
Another person, 73, from Grandville, Michigan, sent $85,560 to Charles Winn for “rare European wines,” documents show. The company promised a 35-40% return on investment and said it had Chinese buyers willing to pay for the rare wines, documents show.
Another person said that around December 2020, a representative claiming to be from Vintage Whiskey Casks called to glean their interest in a “whiskey investment opportunity”. The representative was later identified as Mr. Alexander.
Around November 2021, Mr. Alexander met the person in Phoenix and talked for about an hour of whiskey, the person said, adding that Mr. Alexander told them that if they invested more money, they would receive an invitation “at a high-level party”. -end investors in Scotland.
The person said they later received a call from another company representative asking them to buy $250,000 worth of Hogshead whiskey. (The person sent a check for $100,000, but stopped it after authorities contacted them.)
According to documents, an inside witness began cooperating with authorities around May 2020 and said he received multiple cease-and-desist letters from state security agencies, including the Texas State Securities Board, and from lawyers who represented those who claimed to have been taken away. .
Federal investigators said the companies “reimbursed approximately $250,000 of the $13 million victims invested in the alleged wine and whiskey fraud scheme.”