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'A group of fraudsters were jailed for a combined 17 years and 9 months today for their part in an elaborate wine investment scam which conned nearly £1m out of investors, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable.
Adam Edwards, Barry Warner, Christopher Brummit, Tarik Drissi and James Brooks were today sentenced at Southwark Crown Court for their actions between 2013 and 2015.
The five men operated three fake companies - Mayfair Worldwide Trading Ltd, Commodex Global Limited and Winchester Associates Ltd. These companies claimed to be established fine-wine brokers based in prime locations such as Berkeley Square, Mayfair but were in fact based in industrial estate units on the outskirts of Great Dunmow in Essex.
The gang cold-called fine-wine investors from a ‘sucker list’, and through a series of aggressive sales tactics, managed to defraud a number of wine holdings from vulnerable victims. Once these had been obtained, they would be sold on to legitimate buyers, with the proceeds pocketed by the fraudsters. Victims were then told a series of elaborate lies about the whereabouts of their money. Some were told that their wine had been reinvested into graphene, diamonds or gold.
Sian Mitchell from the CPS Specialist Fraud Division said:
“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. One of the victims was a disabled man who, as a result of not receiving payment, was unable to buy a new wheelchair.
“They went to great lengths to legitimise their fraudulent activities - Mayfair Worldwide Trading issued a bogus press release claiming that the company had won the ‘2014 ID Times Trading Award for Best Asset Exchange Programme and the Internship Europe Excellence Award.’ Obviously, no such awards existed, and were designed to dupe innocent investors.
“We are delighted to have secured custodial sentences for this group, and will continue to prosecute those who think they can benefit from fraud.” How the wine fraud operated1. Victim A is cold called by ‘David Barrington’ from Mayfair World Trading. Having in reality spoken to the defendant Adam Edwards, Victim A agrees to sell his wines to Mayfair Worldwide Trading (MWT) for £38,228 in a ‘graphene asset swap’, on the understanding graphene will be sold and the sum paid to him in 28 days 2. The victim instructed LCB Bonded Warehouse to transfer wines to the account of MWT at EHD Bonded Warehouse 3. A legitimate buyer, Vintners Fine Wine Merchants Ltd, agree to buy the wine for £27,470 and instructs EHD to transfer wines to them 4. Vintners Ltd transfers payment of £30,970 for these wines (and £3,500 worth of other wine) to the bank account of MWT - none is paid to the victim. 5. Having spoken to another employee with an assumed name ‘Peter Phillips’ and told there is a problem with the graphene market, Victim A is now told his wines will now be converted to diamonds and sold 6. Having received no money and struggling to contact MWT, Victim A contacts the police to report the fraud
Adam James Edwards - 6 years plus 5 years Director’s Disqualification Order
Barrymore Alexis Warner - 5 ½ years
Tarik Drissi - 3 years
James Robert Brooks - 20 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years, 300 hours unpaid work
Christopher Brummitt – Sentenced in absence – 3 years 3 months, 5 years Director’s Disqualification Order
Sian Mitchell is a Specialist Prosecutor from the Specialist Fraud Division of the Crown Prosecution Service'The successful investigation was a collaboration between Essex Police and the Met. Comment: Good to see these fraudsters sent to jail. Hopefully Christopher Brummitt, who has fled, will soon be caught. However, would have liked to have seen longer disqualifications from serving as a director unless the disqualification period runs from time of release from prison.
Following a petition in the High Court London by three creditors it was ordered that the company – Twelve-by-Seventy-Five Ltd – be wound up. The order was made on 30th January 2019. The petition was lodged on 14th December 2018 by Stuart John Reid, Gregor James Reid and Shona Louise Reid.
Sultan Mahmood Rashid, the sole remaining director, did not contest the petition nor was he present in court of the hearing.
The liquidator is: The Official Receiver Or London, 2nd Floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 2HT
An update on Mayfair Worldwide Trading, Commodex Global and Winchester Associates involved in wine investment and graphene scams
Success for Essex Police:
Adam EDWARDS – Guilty – awaiting sentence (appearing in court for sentence in April 2019)
Barry WARNER – Guilty – awaiting sentence as above
Tarik DRISSI – Guilty – awaiting sentence as above
This was following their Not Guilty pleas and jury trial at Southwark Crown where all three were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud victims of Mayfair Worldwide Trading, Commodex Global and Winchester associates.
James BROOKS – guilty plea at pre-trial hearing to criminal finance offences. Will be sentenced alongside others in April
Christopher BRUMMITT – guilty plea at pre-trial hearing to criminal finance offences, was given bail by court but has absconded. Essex Police are actively seeking him. He admitted the offences on November 7th 2018.
Christopher Brummit, 36, of Ugley, Bishop's Stortford, was due to be sentenced on Thursday 14th February, for two counts of transferring and acquiring criminal property.
An Essex Police spokesman said: "The case relates to a fine wine scam between 2013 and 2015 where he acquired £157,000 of criminally gained funds and transferred over £72,500 of them. "Brummit is 5ft 7ins, he has a tattoo of a zodiac star on his neck and Celtic and tribal tattoos on his arms.
"He has a triangular symbol tattooed on his chest and a scar. He has links to Bishop’s Stortford."
Anyone with information can call Braintree CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Twelve By Seventy Five Ltd, now run by sole director Sultan Rashid, pride themselves on their expertise:
'We ensure your portfolio is expertly and reliably managed for the best results and keep in touch with you through portfolio valuations and market forecasts.'
'We provide unique and personal advice on how to make a good financial return within this market.'
'We ensure your portfolio is expertly
and reliably managed for the best results'
For whom, please?
'Perfect wine portfolio?'
Sell us your DRC and we will give
you a dead duck wine investment
A good financial return? For whom I have to wonder ...... having been contacted by BV, whose father was persuaded to exchange his portfolio of DRC wines for variants of “Excellence de Belliard” wines, which have proved be a dead duck investment – what a surprise!
From the Twelve By Seventy Five website
DRC 2002 cited but curiously no mention of Excellence de Belliard
'My companies goal is to create a straight forward, transparent, personally tailored to the client Wine Investment Brokerage. After working my way up to Senior broker at a previous company I saw a gap in the market. This gap in the market is a wine investment company that solely has the clients best interests as number one priority. This is the future of wine investment.
My passion is inventing new, more innovative ways for people that are new or familiar to the industry to get the best understanding and profits from there investments, with a broker they can trust and rely on to have there (sic) best interest as paramount.
Open letter to Mr Sultan Rashid, Director, Twelve By Seventy Five Limited from BV:
Without Prejudice, save as to costs
I set out below my family’s experience of investing through Twelve By Seventy Five Limited (TBSF). All statements of fact can be evidenced.
In early 2014 my (now late) father held significant holdings of DRC and other well-known investment grade wines.
At this time, he was contacted by Mr Riccardo De’Nardis, a co-director, along with yourself, of newly formed wine brokerage, Twelve By Seventy Five Limited (TBSF).
Mr De’Nardis had been involved in the sale of the DRC portfolio to my father (in his previous role at Capital Vintners) and used this former contact to introduce my father to TBSF.
During the next three years my father was advised by, and traded through, TBSF. This led to his existing portfolio being systematically sold to TBSF and reinvested (primarily) in variants of “Excellence de Belliard” wines, purchased from TBSF, at an invoiced value amounting to some £390,000.
These wines have proved to be basically unsaleable:
No other broker I have offered them to has been remotely interested in making any offer for them.
One broker informed me they were “about as illiquid as it is possible to be” in terms of investment.
TBSF has had two failed attempts to sell small tranches of the portfolio, once before my father’s death and once subsequent to it.
TBSF have not been able to recommend any other credible disposal route.
This is despite my father being led to believe that the investments were to be short term in nature; to quote a member of your staff, “flipped” for a quick profit. In light of these facts I can only conclude that TBSF either offered catastrophically bad (negligent) advice to my father, or deliberately set out to defraud him.
Recovery To date
Subsequent to my father’s death in February 2017 I reconciled all the transactions he had made with TBSF to both bank statements and to the wines present in his warehouse accounts.
This exercise identified a number of “administrative anomalies”, which led (over time) to the recovery of £32,000 from TBSF.
Subsequent to this, TBSF agreed to help sell the portfolio off. However, this did not go well and in Summer 2017 I finally lost patience with TBSF’s increasingly implausible excuses for failing to sell a small tranche of the Belliard portfolio. I therefore formally confronted Mr De’Nardis with my conclusion that the value of the wines had been significantly misrepresented to my father by TBSF (either fraudulently or negligently).
After prolonged exchanges, during which Mr De’Nardis left TBSF suddenly and handed over to you, we eventually reached a “settlement agreement” during Summer 2017, involving the return of the wines to TBSF for a payment of £275,000 spread over two years. However, you ultimately refused to sign it, claiming to have problems with your business and personal banking arrangements.
Subsequent to this we have managed to agree two additional payments, against threats of a court process being initiated, amounting to £28,000. This leaves our outstanding claim at £330,000.
TBSF’s accounts to January 2017 show that the two directors at that time, Mr De’Nardis and yourself, were able to take £657,000 in directors’ loans from the business. The business does not have significant capital, nor any borrowings, so this implies some profitable and highly cash generative trading has taken place. No direct link to your dealings with my father can be proved from the information available, but I set out below an example of one en-primeur deal TBSF did with him, for which the wines landed in his warehouse account in March this year:
10 cases of L'EXCELLENCE DE BELLIARD PAUILLAC 2015 12X75CL (en primeur) :
Stated in-bond value £ 10,000
Invoiced value £ 21,000
Uplift £ 11,000
The sales invoice does not disclose any such uplift, but I assume that this is your “margin” on what is basically a risk-free transaction for your business.
Subsequent to Mr De’Nardis’ departure, you are now the sole director. You no longer mention banking issues but continue to claim to be unable to offer any kind of immediate settlement (despite the money potentially available from the repayment of the directors’ loans). You recently indicated willingness to sign a new settlement agreement but then refused to respond when sent a draft for signature. In the meantime, it appears that TBSF is changing focus, to work on new ventures, namely “The Wine Drinker” and “Two Thirsty Bulldogs”, and your responses to my emails are often long delayed and incomplete.
This has now been going on for well over a year and needs to be resolved, one way or another. I have therefore given up on privately discussing this matter with you. This letter is the first step in a series of escalations I plan to make to bring this issue to a conclusion. However, I remain open to constructive proposals in relation to how this might be achieved
(name withheld to protect my father’s identity)
What appalling account of an elderly man being misled – either because Twelve by Seventy Five run then by Sultan Rashid and Riccardo De’Nardis had no idea about wine investment despite their claims of expertise or they set out to relieve BV's father of his DRC wines, that are certainly of investment potential, and replace them with variants of “Excellence de Belliard”, which nobody wants to buy. So either gross incompetence or very sharp practice at best.
investdrinks is aware that another client of Twelve By Seventy Five has made a complaint to Action Fraud.
A warning from Hertfordshire Police's Serious Fraud and Cyper Unit has recently been sent to clients of the now failed Montevino Partners/Spirited Ventures warning of possible recovery fraud by PS Escrow mediation in Dubai:
I am confident that the Dubai company has no connection with PS Escrow Inc in Los Angeles.
20th June 2018
My apologies for contacting some of you out of the blue. I was the officer asked to look at a complaint made by some customers of Montevino Partners/Spirited Ventures that the companies were responsible for committing a fraud. Although one member of staff, Mr Michael MOORE was clearly a fraudster, and has been convicted of fraud, I could not prove that Montevino Partners/Spirited Ventures was a fraudulent vehicle or that it committed a fraud (as opposed to being a badly run business).
The reason I am contacting some of you for the first time, is that I have been made aware that some former investors have been contacted by a male claiming to be a David Halliday of Pearson Stone (PS Escrow) company in Dubai, and offering to buy back wine for well over the purchase price, and offering compensation.
The company website http://www.psescrowmediation.com/ and @psescrowmediation.com e-mail domain appears on research to have been registered on 08/05/2018, and if you have had a chance to look at the website, you will have probably noticed it is rather a thin site, and contains such odd turns of phrase as
“We cannot operate a robotic service or offer a naive on-line facility as this would not aid our client’s greatest. We deal with transactions that require an unmeasurable amount of care and precision and as such do so with our client’s interest at the basis.”
I have spoken with Action Fraud, who have confirmed that have already received a complaint of fraud against this company with regards to “Park First Limited” investments, and appear to have been offering similar compensation – at a cost. I can not confirm that Pearson Stone Escrow Mediation is a fraud, however I strongly suspect that this is a Recovery Fraud (please see the action fraud information on this type of fraud by either clicking on the link (https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/sites/default/files/Fraud%20recovery%20fraud.doc.pdf) or for the more cautious of you go to the Action Fraud website and search for “Recovery Fraud”), and would recommend you are cautious if this company or a similar company contacts you – just because the telephone number appears to be in Dubai, it is very easy to buy access to a virtual telephone number that can be based anywhere in the world.
If you have paid money/given wine to this company and not received what you were expecting, I would urge you to report the matter to Action Fraud.
If you have any questions please feel free to give me a call.