Wine and whiskey scam run out of U.K. defrauded elderly U.S. investors out of millions, officials say

Hundreds of people across the country, mostly seniors, were defrauded out of more than $13 million in an elaborate scheme that promised big returns on wine and whiskey investments, said federal authorities.

The allegations were detailed in an affidavit following the arrest of Casey Alexander, a British citizen, on June 14. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to court documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Alexander and “other unknown co-conspirators” in the UK-led scam allegedly used three companies – Charles Winn LLC, Windsor Jones LLC and Vintage Whiskey Casks – as part of the scheme. An FBI agent said the defendants would call people across the United States and convince them to invest in rare dessert wines that would increase in value over time.

“Using aggressive and deceptive tactics promising large returns on wine and whiskey investments, defendants successfully convinced victims to wire funds or write checks to suspicious companies to invest in wine or whisky. alleged whisky,” the affidavit reads.

“After the initial investment with the suspect companies, the defendants stayed in contact with the victims by email and telecommunications to convince them to continue investing with the suspect companies by promising even greater returns on their initial investments. “

None of the victims ever received their return, the FBI said.

One victim, an 89-year-old man from Highland Heights, Ohio, was defrauded of more than $300,000 over an 18-month period, according to the affidavit. The unidentified man sent checks to Charles Winn LLC and sent wire transfers at the request of the defendants, the affidavit states.

The man’s son, who has a power of attorney, contacted the police after learning that his father had been scammed.

A police investigation revealed similar complaints from victims across the country. The FBI said the defendants used false names, such as Elliot Stewart or Robert Wilson, and spoke with British accents. The defendants would tell the victims that the companies had offices located in Delaware, according to the affidavit.

The victims were told the companies “may identify and purchase a portfolio of fine wines and/or whiskeys on behalf of investors” which would be kept in a UK warehouse and sold for a profit, the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, another victim, 73, from Grandville, Michigan, wired $25,560 to Charles Winn LLC believing she was investing in rare wines. The victim, who was told he would receive a potential return of 35% to 40%, then invested an additional $60,000.

According to the affidavit, the victim said he invested because of the defendant’s conviction.

Alexander allegedly cold called a third victim in 2020 and convinced the person to purchase approximately $22,000 worth of whiskey from Vintage Whiskey Casks, the affidavit states. After meeting in person with Alexander, the victim sent a check for $100,000 to buy more whiskey. However, the victim was contacted by the FBI and was able to prevent the check from being cashed.

The scheme fell apart with the help of an inside witness. The FBI said it was able to prevent nearly $470,000 from being deposited in accounts linked to the companies.

Federal authorities said they have identified more than 150 victims in the United States and have been able to return approximately $250,000 of the $13 million invested by the victims.

Alexander was released on $50,000 bail, according to court records. His lawyer could not be immediately reached on Wednesday.

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