The FBI has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the possible wine fraud conducted by Premier Cru — a luxury wine retailer based in Berkeley that filed for bankruptcy after failing to deliver nearly $70 million in promised wines.
The company, which operated by selling wine futures — wines that have yet to be released and would be more expensive once bottled — at attractively low prices to wealthy wine collectors — including businessman William Koch, of the politically influential Koch family — was accused of operating a Ponzi scheme by former customers who paid up to six figures and waited years for wines which never appeared. More than 9,000 customers were affected by the company’s bankruptcy filing.
The company was sued by several customers, as well as by its credit card processing company, Universal Card Inc., after Premier Cru issued refund checks, with funds it did not have, to some customers in an attempt to appear financially stable.
John Fox, the owner of Premier Cru, has now filed for personal bankruptcy, and is believed to owe between $50 and $100 million in various debts, according to Mercury News. The FBI is now asking for former Premier Cru customers to file its complaints online.
“Due to the wide scope and high number of complaints from people who claim to have been impacted by Premier Cru’s bankruptcy,” the FBI is now asking for former Premier Cru customers to file complaints at firstname.lastname@example.org., the agency announced in a statement.