The elaborate scam conned nearly £1m ($1.3m, €1.16m) from fine-wine investors named on a so-called ‘sucker list’, the crown prosecution service (CPS) reported.
The wine represented the retirement savings of some of the victims.
Adam Edwards, Barry Warner, Christopher Brummit, Tarik Drissi and James Brooks were sentenced in London’s Southwark Crown Court on 5 April.
They operated three fake companies; Mayfair Worldwide Trading, Commodex Global and Winchester Associates.
The companies claimed to be established fine-wine brokers based in prime locations, such as Mayfair.
They were, in fact, based in industrial estate units in Essex.
How it worked
The group cold-called individuals that had already invested in wine, which was kept in bonded warehouses.
They employed a series of aggressive sales tactics and managed to convince the victims to transfer their wine assets to the gang’s warehouse.
Once it had been obtained, it was then sold on to legitimate buyers with the proceeds pocketed by the fraudsters.
Victims were told a series of elaborate lies about the whereabouts of their money, such as it had been reinvested in graphene, diamonds or gold.
Dupe innocent investors
“This was an unscrupulous gang who would go to great lengths to defraud elderly and vulnerable people out of their very valuable wines, many of which represented their savings for their retirement,” said Sian Mitchell, specialist prosecutor for the CPS’ specialist fraud division.
“One of the victims was a disabled man who, as a result of not receiving payment, was unable to buy a new wheelchair.
The group went to great lengths to legitimise their fraudulent activities, she added.
Mayfair Worldwide Trading issued a bogus press release claiming that the company had won two fictitious awards.
“Obviously, no such awards existed, and were designed to dupe innocent investors,” Mitchell said.