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California Wine Shop Owner Pleads Guilty After Scamming Customers Out of $45 Million

He'll likely serve six years in prison for the massive Ponzi scheme

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A California wine shop owner who defrauded customers out of millions of dollars is now facing several years in federal prison. Premier Cru owner John Fox has pled guilty to wire fraud, reports the Daily Californian, admitting his role as the mastermind of a massive Ponzi scheme that involved collecting money for wine that was never delivered.

The FBI announced back in February it was investigating Premier Cru after receiving several complaints from customers; the company filed for bankruptcy in January after shorting nearly 5,000 customers wine that they had already forked over $45 million for.

According to the Daily Californian, "Fox’s total personal gain was approximately $5 million." He used Premier Cru's business accounts to pay for a laundry list of personal expenses, from high-end sports cars to private golf club memberships, as well as spending "$900,000 on women he met online."

The U.S. attorney's office is recommending Fox serve six years in federal prison (he could be facing up to 20 years, plus a $250,000 fine) and will also be asked to pay restitution to the customers he scammed out of money, though it's unclear if he'll actually have enough money to do so. He will be sentenced on December 14.

Berkeley Wine Shop Owner Pleads Guilty to Ponzi Scheme [Daily Californian]

• Owner of Bankrupt Premier Cru Wine Shop Faces 20 Years in Prison [E]

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