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Wine Spectator: California Retailer Pleads Guilty To Fraud

August 10, 2016

John Fox, the man behind troubled wine retailer Premier Cru, will plead guilty this week to criminal charges that will likely send him to federal prison, Wine Spectator has learned. During a sealed proceeding in June, federal prosecutors charged Fox with one count of wire fraud. According to an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, Fox will surrender to federal marshals today; Thursday he will appear before a federal magistrate and is expected to change a previous plea from not guilty to guilty.

The FBI began investigating Fox earlier this year, after Premier Cru filed for bankruptcy, frustrating thousands of angry customers who paid the store for wines that were never delivered. Several former customers had filed lawsuits against the Berkeley, California, store, which was known for offering great deals on wines that the store labeled “future arrivals.” In its bankruptcy petition, the firm declared $70 million in debt, mostly unfulfilled orders paid for by almost 9,000 customers in 45 states and 18 countries. It had less than $7 million in assets, mainly wine in its warehouse space.

The Oakland-based U.S. Attorney charges that Fox conducted a fraudulent scheme, offering wines he didn’t have and using customers’ money to secure wines he owed other clients. The prosecution alleges this plan was carried out “from about 2009 to about 2015.” The charge was filed June 28, but because Fox was concerned for his safety, the U.S. Attorney agreed to seal the proceedings until the arraignment. Wine Spectator has the full story.

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