If You Get a Call From 'Elliot Stewart,' Be Wary

$13M has been stolen from the elderly in a rare-wine scam
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2022 11:55 AM CDT
$13M Stolen From Elderly in Rare-Wine Scam
The Wine Museum in the "Cite du Vin " ("City of Wine") in Bordeaux, France, is pictured on March 6, 2017.   (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

The world of fine wine and whiskey continues to be a magnet for thieves and frauds. The Washington Post reports on allegations that three England-based companies claiming huge returns on investments in rare booze actually stole more than $13 million from at least 150 Americans—many of them elderly. Representatives of Windsor Jones, Charles Winn, and Vintage Whisky Casks would cold-call people, often using fake British accents and the name "Elliot Stewart," then deploy "aggressive and deceptive tactics" to get them to invest as part of a five-year international scheme, federal investigators allege.

They promised investments would be doubled in three years and teased invites to a luxurious party in Scotland for top-level investors, per Cleveland.com. An 89-year-old from Ohio, who believed his $300,000 was being spent on rare dessert wine and a storage locker in France, eventually went to police. The FBI soon connected the case to others, including that of a 73-year-old from Michigan who'd wired $85,000. Some investors said they'd tried to pull out but were given excuses or were ignored. No one received any returns, though a source within the companies helped authorities identify people who'd sent a combined $466,000 in checks in time for them to be canceled.

Starting in March, after the companies ignored dozens of cease-and-desist letters from state security agencies, an FBI informant began posing as a potential investor and arranged a meeting with Casey Alexander of England, tied to all three companies. Alexander allegedly claimed employees "would only get paid 10% of the profit after the whiskey matured and was sold to third parties," per the Post. However, the FBI found all of the money in Vintage Whisky Casks' UK bank account had come from US investors. Casey, the company's officer, "had received $33,000 from that account," the paper notes. He was arrested after flying into Cleveland on June 14 on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was released after posting a $50,000 bond. (More wire fraud stories.)

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