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Berkeley singular booze store owners pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme

The owners of a high-end Berkeley booze emporium pleaded guilty to bilking business out of during slightest $45 million in what one prosecutor described as a “wine Ponzi scheme.”

John Fox, 66, certified masterminding a “massive intrigue to defraud” by his store Premier Cru — holding millions from vino lovers around a universe but appropriation a booze first, according to a matter Thursday from a Department of Justice. Under a defence agreement, Fox is confronting 6 ½ years in sovereign prison.

Fox falsified squeeze orders for about $20 million of booze that he never bought, and afterwards sole that “phantom wine” to gullible customers, a matter said.

In a defence deal, a Concord, Calif., proprietor certified he embezzled income from a business. He spent scarcely $1 million on women he met online, and also used supports to compensate off personal credit cards, buy golf bar memberships and squeeze or franchise oppulance cars such as Ferraris, Corvettes, a Maserati and “various Mercedes-Benzes,” a matter said.

Fox co-founded Premier Cru in 1980. On a website, a association billed itself as “offering peculiarity wines during prices reduce than anyone else around.” Aside from a brick-and-mortar store, a association also dealt in booze futures — offering business a possibility to buy wines during a bonus before they had even been bottled. 

Premier Cru has been a theme of countless patron complaints. Last year, several business filed lawsuits opposite a company, alleging they never got a booze they had paid for, according to a Wine Spectator. In January, Premier Cru filed for failure protection; it listed $70 million in debt and $7 million in assets.

On Yelp, Premier Cru’s page is riddled with raging business angry of watchful years for wine deliveries — if they perceived them during all.

“Be really clever and consider twice before even enchanting in business with these guys,” wrote Vick S. of Half Moon Bay. After a year, he had nonetheless to get his sequence of Bordeaux, a examination said, and a association never responded to questions about his order.

shan.li@latimes.com

Twitter: @shanli

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