Monday, 20 February 2017
Two men – Thomas Hole and Ryan Fraser – sentenced for wine fraud offences – London and Essex
Thames Valley Police
Saturday 18 February 2017, 4:27pm
Two men have been sentenced for duping victims in a £362,000 wine scam, following a Thames Valley Police investigation.
Thomas Hole, aged 31, of Rectory Crescent, London, was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment and Ryan Fraser, aged 25, of Hemnall Street, Epping, Essex, was sentenced to a total of three years and four months’ imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 10 February.
Thomas Hole was convicted by majority jury of one count of conspiracy to defraud following a four-week trial at the same court which concluded on 3 February.
Ryan Fraser pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud at a previous court hearing in January 2016 and pleaded guilty to a further count of conspiracy to defraud on the first day of his trial on 9 January 2017.
Both men were also disqualified from being company directors for 10 years.
Two other defendants who stood trial; Mohammed Boodhoo, aged 38, of Ruxley Lane, Epsom, Surrey, was acquitted of one count of conspiracy to defraud and Kenneth Fraser, aged 50, of Thornwood Road, Epping, Essex, was acquitted of one count of conspiracy to defraud.
A company, Premier Wine Investment Limited, was set up which offered investment in Bordeaux, fine wine. Various people were cold called and were persuaded to invest. They were told that they should leave their investments to grow in value over a number of years which most investors did, allowing the defendants to be able to use the money without being immediately detected.
To overcome the suspicions of their bank, a new company similarly named which just added an ‘s’ on to Wine, was set up. The formation of Premier Wines Investment Limited, in June 2012, allowed the offenders to continue to convince victims to pay their money in to a new separate account with a different bank, allowing them to continue their criminal activity.
The investigation, carried out by Thames Valley Police’s Economic Crime Unit, identified 13 victims, most of whom were approaching or enjoying their retirement.
The victims did not realise that instead of the company purchasing fine wine for them, the money was being used by the defendants on payments to their own bank accounts, was withdrawn in cash, was used on expensive overseas travel, on spa days, bespoke tailoring and on meals at restaurants.
The only money which was spent on wine was the wine that the defendants purchased and consumed themselves. Between December 2011 and August 2013 the defendants conspired together to defraud people by making false, misleading and dishonest representations about the value and existence of wine.
Investigating officer Det Con Steve Conroy, of the Economic Crime Unit, said: “Thomas Hole and Ryan Fraser preyed upon the naivety and vulnerability of potential investors when they defrauded the victims in this case. This was a crime motivated by their greed which resulted in them taking thousands of pounds of other people’s retirement money and savings for themselves. Their contempt for the victims, who were mainly retired or elderly, showed they had no thought for the impact on their lives or the hardship they caused as a result.
“The sentences passed show that these offences are taken seriously by police and the Economic Crime Unit will pursue those who offend to ensure they are brought to face justice.”