Ponzi scheme invokes rare wine bottles

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Rare bottles of wine can fetch substantial prices at auction and have been the subject of interesting non-fiction. These two qualities speak to the combination of rarity with a good story – two qualities that rare wines have in abundance.

Unfortunately, these qualities can give scammers something they can exploit. And a new article in Joseph Bullmore’s Air Mail ventures into exactly that territory. It’s about two men, Stephen Burton and Andrew Fuller, who lured investors with the promise they were lending to wine collectors who had pledged hard-to-get bottles.

If that premise sounds too good to be true, well, needless to say, it was. Their operation, Bordeaux Cellars, reportedly attracted $100 million in investment and ultimately brought Burton and Fuller into legal hot water.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced indictments for the duo. “Unlike the fine wine they claimed to possess, the defendants’ repeated lies to investors have not aged well,” Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “As alleged, these defendants deceived investors by offering them an intoxicating investment opportunity secured by precious bottles of fine wine that turned out to be too good to be true.”

The Air Mail article notes that both men face up to 20 years in prison. Fuller is currently in a London jail awaiting trial, while Burton’s fate is unknown.

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