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International Winery Scam Cost Investors Millions

With an attractive website and the promise of "the acquisition and sale of the world's most illustrious and pleasurable Bordeaux investment grade fine wine," French region Windsor Jones winery looks to be a good investment. A new court case alleges the investment opportunity was all part of a ploy, the Washington Post reports. According to an arrest affidavit, representatives for Windsor Jones, with two other companies, Charles Winn and Vintage Whisky Casks, are accused of running an international scheme that involved cold-calling, fake names and British accents. The companies, which all purported to operate between the U.S. and United Kingdom, allegedly swindled more than $13 million from at least 150 people. The five-year, two-continent saga resulted in last week’s arrest of Casey Alexander, who lives in England, on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Alexander is accused of working for the three companies that allegedly defrauded investors by dangling promises of high returns on their investments in rare wines and whiskeys. The three companies used “aggressive and deceptive tactics” on the elderly people whose funds they obtained.

The FBI became involved in the case after a 89-year-old Ohio victim reported it to police. Then, the agency began connecting his case to several others. The complaints against the companies were so widespread that they received a slew of cease-and-desist letters from securities agencies across different states. The companies ignored them, an informant told the FBI. That informant, who worked for two of the companies, helped investigators connect with several people who had sent checks to the company. The companies responded by persuading other individuals to send money through wire transfers, investigators said. Starting March 28, federal agents tapped an unidentified man from Ohio’s Cuyahoga County who had been charged in an unrelated securities fraud case to pretend to be a potential investor and meet with company employees. After connecting the FBI with the employee, the Cuyahoga County informant tipped off investigators that Alexander would be traveling from England to Ohio. He was arrested by the FBI on June 14. Alexander was released after posting a $50,000 bond. Under the conditions of his release, Alexander, whose calls were decried as incessant and “pushy", is prohibited from contacting “any person who is or may be a victim.”


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