Wine And Whiskey Scammers Allegedly Stole $13 Million From Investors

Although the rare whiskey and vintage wine markets have boomed in recent years, fetching some bottle and barrel holders huge amounts of cash on the resale market, a recent scam illustrated that not all alcohol investments are created equal.

According to The New York Times, Casey Alexander, a British citizen who operated multiple boozy American investment operations, was arrested earlier this month for defrauding wine and liquor enthusiasts out of massive sums of money under the guise of rare investment opportunities. The FBI alleges that Alexander scammed primarily elderly Americans out of millions of dollars through an elaborate scheme conducted across three fraudulent companies: Vintage Whisky Casks, Charles Winn, and Windsor Jones.

According to authorities, the U.K.-based swindler reached his clients through cold calls after obtaining the victims' phone numbers. Alexander — along with some unknown co-conspirators — coerced mainly elderly and vulnerable targets to invest large sums of money in his wine and whiskey businesses (via Decanter).

The trio of companies advertised themselves as luxury wine and whiskey buyers and sellers, such as Windsor Jones, which notes that it "specializes in the acquisition and sale of the world's most illustrious exciting and pleasurable Investment Grade Luxury Fine produce bespoke investment strategies for our loyal clients" on its website. Clients were promised massive returns on their investments, including one victim who, according to Decanter, was promised a return of 40% on an $85,000 fine wine investment.

Investors were defrauded out of $13 million

Victims were urged to send large sums of cash via check or wire transfer in order to secure bottles and barrels of wine or whiskey housed in warehouses in Britain and France, where they would allegedly accrue value. According to authorities, in total, Alexander and his accomplices defrauded over 150 people out of $13 million dollars through his various wine and whiskey-peddling operations via various "aggressive and deceptive tactics" (via The Washington Post).

The news outlet goes on to say that the scheme was finally brought down in the spring of 2020 when the son of an 89-year-old victim discovered that his father had paid out over $300,000 to Charles Winn in exchange for a suspicious investment in rare sweet wines. After requests to return his father's investment were ignored, the son contacted local authorities who escalated the case to the FBI.

The Federal authorities finally brought down the scheme by running a sting operation, sending in an operative to act as a potential client for one of Alexander's businesses. As a result, Casey Alexander was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; the alleged scammer has since been released on a $50,000 bond (via The New York Times).

Unfortunately, the victims are unlikely to see much of that money — or the barrels of fine wine they were promised — again.