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One company claims on its website that buying its whiskey can “help you acquire a piece of history.” Another says he specializes in the acquisition and sale of the world’s most distinguished, exciting and pleasurable “Investment Grade” wines.

But according to federal court records, those in charge of the two companies and a third company used an elaborate scheme to defraud more than 150 people in the United States, mostly older adults, out of more than $13 million, promising returns of whiskeys and fine wines. that 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 was involved in the scheme, which originated in Britain.

Alexander and “other unknown co-conspirators” were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of the scheme, according to court documents filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Mr. Alexander was released on $50,000 bail, 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, have addresses in Delaware, according to court documents. None of the three companies responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Those behind the companies called dozens of people and persuaded them to transfer funds or write checks to their businesses, Matthew E. Scalisi, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in the deposition.

The co-conspirators, he added, used “aggressive and deceptive tactics”, false names and a promise to store the fine wines and whiskeys in a warehouse in Britain while they accumulated value.

After the initial investment, the conspirators kept in touch with the target people via email and phone, persuading them to continue investing with the promise of “even greater returns,” according to the affidavit.

Daniel Ball, a spokesman for the US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, declined to comment on the case on Tuesday.

Court documents say the FBI learned of the scheme in April 2020 after the son of an 89-year-old man who had been shot notified police in Highland Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.

The man told authorities that his father had been 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” that would increase in value over time.

According to court documents, Charles Winn LLC is registered in Delaware and “allegedly based” in Great Britain.

Several other complaints were made to Highland Police in 2019, according to court documents, with victims reporting that they were cold-called by a “Robert Wilson” or “Sebastian Renner” who claimed to represent Charles Winn, LLC.

Another person, 73, from Granville, Michigan, sent $85,560 to Charles Winn for “rare European wines,” according to documents. The company promised a 35 to 40 percent return on investment and claimed to have Chinese buyers willing to pay for the rare wines, the documents say.

Another person said that around December 2020, a representative claiming to be from Vintage Whiskey Casks called to solicit their interest in a “whiskey investment opportunity”. The representative was later identified as Mr. Alexander.

Around November 2021, Alexander met with the person in Phoenix and talked for about an hour about whiskey, the person said, adding that Alexander told them that if they put in more money, they would get an invite “to a birthday party.” high-end investors in Scotland.”

The person said he later received a call from a different representative of the company, 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 reported receiving multiple cease and desist letters from state securities agencies, including the Texas State Securities Council, and from lawyers representing those who claimed to have been taken. .

Federal investigators said the companies “returned approximately $250,000 of the $13 million invested by victims in the alleged wine and whiskey fraud scheme.”

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