Wine Dealer Arrested For Allegedly Selling Counterfeit Bottles

A California wine collector allegedly played off his respected reputation to pawn off cheap imitations of expensive products on unsuspecting customers. Feds arrested the collector, accusing him of selling fake vintages at high-profile auction houses.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a billionaire helped tip off authorities to the alleged fraud when he noticed something funny about a label on a bottle, as well as details about the wine, that he bought from the collector. The fraud claim led to a rush of others who believed they were similarly burned.

The suspect raked in $35 million in 2006 by serving part of his collection. His antics raised eyebrows in 2008 when he was set to auction off wines that were supposed to have been bottled between 1945 and1971, but had to back off when someone at the vineyard the wine was supposed to have come from revealed that it didn’t start bottling wine until 1982. The suspect is believed to be buried in debt, so the burned collectors presumably may not be able to collect their wasted funds.

File this one under “One Percenter Problems.”

Rare-Wine Dealer Accused of Fraud [The Wall Street Journal]

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  1. chemmy says:

    Thanks for the paywall link :)

  2. Bsamm09 says:

    I hate when I get counterfeit Franzia.

    • JennQPublic says:

      You have to check the quality of the glue holding the box together. It’s a dead giveaway.

  3. truthandjustice says:

    I love how the Fed’s can go all RAMBO-ish on the (relatively) little chumps, but let Corzine lose ~$1 billion — and the Feds can’t figure out what laws were broken. Hence Corzine, and many others of his ilk will NOT feel the strong arm of the law.

    WARNING — if you’re low on the totem pole, like you and me — don’t cheat anyone out of a nickel ninety-eight, or it’s straight to the slammer for you and me.

    ” . . . liberty and justice for all . . .” — I call BULL &#$T.

  4. 180CS says:

    Woah. Those poor guys might have to pull their children out of 32,000 dollar a year prep schools and opt for less expensive 20-something thousand dollar varieties. :O

    Sure, this is fraud, but so is the idea of capital gains being taxed at a flat 10%. I’m more concerned about people loosing their pensions and being scammed by predatory lenders than I am about gullible rich folk.

    Kudos to you Phil for that last line there. My sentiments exactly. This story was funny to me.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      10% capital gains tax?

      • 180CS says:

        Opps, it’s 15%, not 10.

        But this chart can explain what I’m saying pretty well: http://www.impactefficiency.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/tax_rate_income_type_level_total.png

        Effectively, the richer you are, the more likely your income is from capital gains. And once you reach that level of richness, you’re probably getting most of your income written off anyway by creative (but legal) banking. Effectively, the kinds of people sobbing over this scam likely pay an effective tax rate less than many people below our country’s poverty line.

        To me, that’s a bigger scam than this ever could be. Taxes are supposed to be proportional, so there’s something wrong when someone whose having trouble putting food on the table pays more in taxes than someone having trouble over whether to buy a helicopter or a yacht.

  5. nbs2 says:

    How much did bottles go for? If I drank, I’d be tempted to buy and save a bottle for a super special occasion (if in any sort of affordable price range). Maybe the kids weddings or college graduation.

  6. Tiercelet says:

    And how long did it take before people noticed this? And this guy noticed it only because of a problem with the label?

    Seriously, people — recognize that high-priced wine has value only due to snobbery or prestige and doesn’t taste any different from everything north of Manischevitz.

  7. nbs2 says:

    How much did bottles go for? If I drank, I’d be tempted to buy and save a bottle for a super special occasion (if in any sort of affordable price range). Maybe the kids weddings or college graduation.

  8. Jules Noctambule says:

    I swear this is both an episode of Bones and Law & Order.

  9. oldtaku says:

    You know those people wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference by taste alone – nobody would ever have found out if he hadn’t messed up on the containers.

  10. ancientone567 says:

    You gotta love snooty wine people that don’t know their wines lol. I can tell with just a taste or sometimes just a smell.

  11. hikari07 says:

    Seriously? Just because wine is an expensive hobby and the tipster was in the 1% does NOT make it ok to downplay the issue. Fraud is fraud. It doesn’t make it OK to rip someone off just because they have the money. Its illegal no matter what. The tagline for consumerist is shoppers bite back. Not poor shoppers. Not frugal shoppers. Shoppers. That last line was condescending, unneccessary, and makes it seem like you think its OK.