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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Barry Gamble (The London Vines Ltd) made indefinitely bankrupt

 Barry Michael Gamble – bankruptcy report

As 2016 draws to a close I am sure that Barry Gamble's many friends and fervent admirers, who may include Emma and Katie, will appreciate an update, especially as the liquidator's latest report to 30.10.16 is available here.

Although Gamble was made bankrupt at Croydon County Court on 8th December 2015, his bankruptcy wasn't confirmed until 2nd June 2016 as Gamble appealed to the court claiming that the bankruptcy order should not have been made. Fortunately Gamble's delaying tactics failed – the order arose from the misfeasance action brought by solicitors acting for the liquidator of The London Vines Ltd. In the latter half of 2015 Gamble was fined by default £741,647.45

The UK bankruptcy register shows that Gamble's bankruptcy, which would normally have ended on 8th December 2016, has been extended indefinitely'Order suspending bankrupt’s discharge under Section 279(3) of the Insolvency Act 1986 until the fulfillment of conditions as specified in the Order made by the Court and effective from 29 November 2016'. I will report on these conditions if and when I have the details.

Given the successful misfeasance claim – taking money out of The London Vines Ltd without proper justification – Gamble should have been banned as a UK director. That this wasn't pursued may well be down to Government cuts in The Insolvency Service. Anyway Gamble's continued bankruptcy precludes him from being a UK director.  

There is potential further bad news for the Gamble household. Amanda Gamble, Barry's wife, may well also be made bankrupt early in 2017 as reported in the Liquidator's report from 31st October 2015 to 30th October 2016. 'A Statutory Demand was personally served on Mrs Gamble on 22nd October 2016 and accordingly, Mrs Gamble has until 09 November 2016 to apply to the Court to have the Demand set aside and we will be able to present a Bankruptcy Petition from 14 November 2016.' It seems that Amanda Gamble is yet to be made bankrupt as her name does not yet appear on the bankruptcy register.  

According to the liquidator's latest report: 'Barry Gamble claimed that all of the net sale proceeds from the property at 6 Rowan Close (Banstead) were paid to his wife Amanda Gamble'.   

Sadly I suspect that few will be surprised to learn that it is very unlikely that any of the clients and investors with The London Vines Ltd will get any of the £1.63 million claimed to be owing. 
Gamble made an appearance here in the Mirror back in February 2016. 

Barry Gamble's libel case
In December 2014 Barry Gamble decided to sue me in the High Court for libel and slander. Essentially, despite the misfeasance judgment, Gamble claimed to be an honest businessman. 

Gamble based much of his case and claim on a company called ESW Exports (UK) Ltd, which supposedly had experience and expertise in exporting English sparkling wine. Central to Gamble's legal claim was that he had personally lost a contract with a Toronto based Canadian wine importer worth £80,000.

This contract, of course, was pure fantasy and the whole case an abuse of legal process. There never was a contract with the Canadian importer. It took Gamble some nine months to come up with the name of the importer who, when I contacted him in November 2015,
told me:  

'I took the time to go through my records to determine whether I had any contact with Mr. Gamble as his name and company did not ring a bell.  I deal with dozens of suppliers every year and many of our contacts do not result in any business. I did find some e-mail correspondence with him in 2013 where I informed him of some upcoming opportunities for sparkling wines with our monopoly, the LCBO. He sent me information about one Italian sparkling wine which was priced outrageously with no hope of ever being purchased. I reached out to him again a few months later regarding another opportunity and he did not respond so I closed my file. I have never heard from him since.'

Gamble was not a director or shareholder of ESW Exports (UK) Ltd – he never explained why he would have personally benefitted from the fantasy £80,000 contract. ESW Exports (UK) Ltd was established on 16th August 2012. It was struck off on 21st October 2014 for non-compliance – no annual returns of accounts were filed.  

In 2012 Gamble did make contact with a number of English sparkling wine producers. One of them – Sam Lindo of the excellent Camel Valley  – was not impressed:

'I have only come across these guys from them enquiring about exporting our wine.  They sound like a bunch of nutters. I told them their website made them look like a con, it showed a total lack of knowledge of our industry, in particular how small it is. The chap missed the joke I made about only using Western Union money transfers.
Some of these people can be genuine, we make everyone pay up front for the first 2 orders and this stops any chancers.' 
Good to go: 
On 9th August 2012 Gamble emailed a number of English sparkling wine producers claiming to have 'importers/agents in the major citys (sic) in China and India' and that 'Myself and my newly formed export company ESW Exports Ltd are taking English sparkling wine to the other side of the planet'.

'Hi Guys,
As your more than likely aware, English sparkling wine has a reputation rarely surpassed.  In fact so popular is the wine of our fair land that overseas they cant get enough actually they cant get any, Myself and my newly formed export company ESW Exports LTD are taking English sparkling wine to the other side of the planet..
With a handful of importers/agents in the major citys in China and India good to go all we need is the wine..
So I write this email in hope that we can spread the word with gusto, we would look to purchase at least 100 cases of sparkling wine in various forms from as many vineyards as possible, of course if the wines are award winning in some way then all the better..
All monies for your wines will of course be paid up front and we would look to build from there..
Feel free to get in contact with myself on the number below or reply to this email at your earliest convenience..
Many Thanks
Barry Gamble'

Gamble's claim of 'importers/agents' in China and India is also likely to have been a complete fantasy. Interestingly no mention here of a Canadian importer....

Shortly before Gamble was made bankrupt at Croydon Court, he made an offer of settlement, which included a demand for £3000 to cover his legal costs. Gamble never received a penny. Once a liquidator was appointed in respect of Gamble's personal bankruptcy, they discontinued the legal action since bankrupt Gamble was not in a position to pursue this case.   



Friday, 7 October 2016

Jail for cold-caller who scammed elderly wine investors – Jonothan Piper gets just desserts

Insolvency Service press release (30th September 2016): 

Jonothan Piper
, from Wanstead, has been sentenced to five and a half years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of fraudulent trading, two counts of money laundering and one count of cheating HM Revenue and Customs of tax at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 22 August 2016.

Piper, 30, who was the director of Embassy Wine (UK) Limited and previously traded as a land and diamonds salesman, pleaded guilty to defrauding investors out of hundreds of thousands of pounds and to failing to pay tax and National Insurance on his earnings for six years.
Investors complained that they had been mis-sold expensive wine collections and had either not received the wine they were promised or were deceived in respect of the expected returns. Many investors were then persuaded to sell their wine collections to Piper’s company, but did not receive the promised payment. An investigation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that the self-professed fine-wine broker had not traded legitimately at all and had set up the company simply to con investors out of approximately £300,000.
BEIS discovered that HMRC was also conducting an investigation into Piper, and the matter was jointly prosecuted with the CPS. Piper also pocketed more than £51,000 in Income Tax and National Insurance contributions from his undeclared earnings, between 2008 and 2014.
Deputy Chief Investigation Officer Ian West from BEIS said:
Mr Piper cynically attempted to dissolve his company Embassy Wine (UK) Limited without notifying his creditors of his intention or complying with the three month trading restriction prior to any application for the striking off/dissolution of a company, to mask his fraudulent activity. It was established that he had defrauded his companies’ unsuspecting clients of in excess of £295,000 in a wine investment scam carried out, in conjunction with other frauds against the revenue to fund his expensive lifestyle. He now has to face the serious consequences of his criminal lifestyle.
This case should serve as a warning to those that seek to utilise the Insolvency regime to further fraudulent activity, that the BEIS Criminal Enforcement Directorate, will with law enforcement partners, ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted with the full force of the law.

Notes to editors

Jonothan Jeremiah Piper - date of birth 8 April 1986 - of Foxglove Gardens, Wanstead, pleaded guilty to: Acting with intent to prejudice or defraud HM Revenue and Customs, Fraudulent Trading, contrary to section 993(1) of the Companies Act 2006, Converting Criminal Property, contrary to section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2000 and Converting Criminal Property, contrary to section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2000, at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 22 August 2016.
He was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for defrauding HMRC and 3.5 years’ consecutive imprisonment for the fraudulent trading offence. He was sentenced to 15 months’ concurrent imprisonment for the two counts of money laundering.
On 17 November 2015 Mr Piper was disqualified as a director for 11 years.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Jack Williams, legal adviser – who was his mysterious client?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Heartless, parasite Jonothan Piper to be jailed for wine investment fraud

Embassy Wine UK Ltd website:
'We have great passion for the product let us share 
the knowledge of wealth and guidance to building 
a portfolio of the most sort after wines. Enabling an attractive 
and healthy return on your investment.' 

On Tuesday 23rd August 2016 30-year-old Jonothan Piper admitted at Snaresbrook Crown Court to defrauding his investor clients and HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs).

Piper, who posed as a wine broker, preyed on the elderly and vulnerable – cold calling and persuading them transfer their wine to his company Embassy Wine UK Ltd. Piper charged an advance fee for sales for ‘legal costs’. Once the wine was transferred Piper would become impossible to contact and the duped investor would never receive their promised money.

The fraud netted Piper at least £300,000 with one investor losing £150,000. Another investor, an elderly woman who had already been a victim of World Wide Wines Ltd, was persuaded to buy a further £33,000 worth of wine from Embassy. This included a case of 2004 Haut Brion for £10,000 in 2012, which could have been bought elsewhere for £2400. The salesman claimed it should have cost £12,000! 

Embassy offered to sell her portfolio for £60,000 – charging £20,000 in ‘legal fees’ reimbursable in seven days.   

HMRC was defrauded for £51,104 as Piper failed to declare any income between 2008 and 2014.

Embassy Wines UK Ltd was founded on 28th June 2011. It was wound up in the public interest on 3rd December 2014. Piper was the sole director and shareholder with just £1 of share capital. 
Piper has been jailed on Judges Remand and will be sentenced on 16th September 2016. I hope that Judge Louise Kamill will out Piper away for a good stretch and that Piper will be forced to repay his victims, whose life savings he looted and spent on high living including nearly £90,000 on a BMW X6 and a Range Rover Sport. Piper's expertise lay not as he claimed in fine wine but in trousering his elderly and vulnerable clients' money.  

On 17th November 2015 Piper was banned for being a UK director for 11 years.  
Over the past three years recovery room wine investment/advance fee frauds have become increasingly common. Victims of previous wine investment scam companies are contacted by new firms and offered deals on their wine portfolios at well above market price.
Some companies also make bogus claims to have taken over liquidations from legitimate companies like Grant Thornton and ‘found’ investors missing wines abroad. Invariably investors are again left empty handed.  

It is good to see that some of these heartless fraudsters – vile individuals who exploit vulnerable people – are being prosecuted.    

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Warning – Lynch & Mullin, LLP – shares in Winex-Ex Inc.

 website record for Lynch & Mullin 
– creation date 18 July 2016

Very recently in a most useful message from KP, an investor in collapsed Vinance PLC, a scam wine investment company. An impressive piece of research by KP. Two investors with closed Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd have also been contacted this month offering the exactly same share scam. 

'Dear Jim,

I wanted to warn the readers of your blog about a new scam going on:

Today I received a cold call from a chap called "Mark Schratton" from a "law firm" called Lynch & Mullin, LLP from Boston, Massachusetts.

The story made kind of sense: "You invested in Vinance PLC some time ago, it looks like those unscrupulous owners who are now all in prison* purchased shares in a company called Winex Inc. and put your name as a shareholder without you knowing as a means of routing/ stashing their investor money. As it turns out, you're in luck because you're now owner of 30,000 shares which our client is looking to buy".

I did invest in Vinance PLC, lost money on it and yes the management of that company is now in prison (or at least some of them). The chap had my contact details, my name, phone number and email. I checked the law firm's website - basic but otherwise well respectable.

Then "his colleague" sends me legal documentation advising me that I own 30,000 shares at $5 each and asks me to fill in my contact and bank details as soon as possible (best today). All looking very legit and professional.
I asked to see my share certificate - and they even produced that.

A few issues with the master plan:

  1. Lynch & Mullin LLP does not exist - there's no mention of them in the Massachusetts commercial registry
  2. Their website was only registered a month ago
  3. There are no legal articles with this firm's name anywhere to be found (Google, Law360...)
  4. They managed to produce a share certificate "from the registration authorities" (which they did not originally have) within 1 hour
  5. Winex-Ex Inc does not exist - there's no mention of them in the Nevada commercial registry (Nevada as per my "share certificate")
  6. In the legal documentation they mention some bogus government agency - the website mentioned in the document is empty (just registered). When asked about it "Mark" provided a different address which was registered only a week ago with apparently the intent for people to contact them to verify that Lynch & Mullin is an actual firm.
  7. The servers of this "US govt agency" are hosted in France... hmmm

I must say that these scams are getting quite sophisticated and it's easy to fall for them. Beware.

Best regards,'


How this advance fee scam works:
As KP says this is quite a sophisticated scam as it involved both setting up a website for a fictitious US law firm by cloning a legitimate American law firm's site and another site that purported to be a US Government securities agency.

Ex-clients of failed wine investment companies – Bordeaux Fine Wines Ltd and Vinance plc so far – are cold called by someone from American 'law firm' Lynch & Mullin,  and told that their wine company has purchased shares – see KP's story above. Staff names to date at Lynch & Mullin are Mark Schratton, James Fischer, Matthew Cohen and Andrew William Marks – probably all false names. 

Compare and contrast 

The scam Lynch & Mullin, LLP site in 'Boston'

 Carr, Morris & Graeff, PC – legitimate US law firm in Virginia and DC
site cloned by Lynch & Mullin  

More cloning ..... Lynch & Mullin above
 Carr, Morris & Graeff, P.C.

 Lynch & Mullin, LLP (scam)

Carr, Morris & Graeff, P.C. – cloned by Lynch & Mullin

Who is? Lynch & Mullin's website 
created 18th July 2016

The investor is told that these 30,000 shares in Winex-Ex Inc. are restricted and are advised to contact the International Securities and Investments Commission (ISIC). They are told that the ISIC is a US government Regulatory, who will make enquiries about removing the restriction. Investors are told that there will be a fee for removing the restriction. Lynch & Mullin send out a share certificate for 30,000 shares in Wine-Ex Inc along with transfer documents. Winex-Ex Inc does not exist, although Google does show a Winex Inc in New Jersey, which was established in 1994 and surely a legitimate company and nothing to do with these scammers.  

Certificate for 30,000 shares in Wine-Ex Inc

$150,000 transfer of shares to Lynch & Mullin  

Investor GJ contacted the ISIC and dealt with a Mr. Mark Gibson, International Affairs, and based at 277 Park Avenue, New York NY 10172. Gibson advised that the fees to derestrict the shares are

Option 1 a fee of 25c per share with the restriction removed within 10/14 days. $7500 on 30,000 shares.
Option 2 a fee 30c per share with the restriction removed within 24/48 hours. $9000 on 30,000 shares.
Anyone, who sells their 30,000 shares to Lynch & Mullins, will never see their money instead they will have had their wallets thinned by either $7500 or $9000.

International Securities and Investments Commission (ISIC).
Despite its impressive name the International Securities and Investments Commission (ISIC) is a recently created scam. Its website was created on 9th August 2016. The registrant's name is given as Jonathan Richardson, EDF Grande 2, Piso 1, Barcelona, Spain  

The real bona fide US government agency is: 
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Please note that ISIC has no connection with the Australian Government's ASIC – Australian Securities & Investments Commission. 

Update: 18.8.2016 20.35
It appears that the Lynch & Mullin website has disappeared. As anon pointed out below their website appears to have been a clone of Carr, Morris & Graeff, PC, a legitimate law firm based in Washington DC, whose website was registered in April 1997. 

Sorry the website 
cannot be found 

This is good news but it is very possible that the scammers will just set up another cloned website.  

Update: 24th August 2016 
The cloned site is back up but as replacing peddling a similar scam using shares in Eco Care Global Inc


* The four directors of Vinance Plc have all been disqualified from acting as UK directors. Simon Earl – 10 years and Simon Ford, Paul Ford, Mike Wallen – 9 years each. Details here. In February 2013 Simon Earl and Mike Wallen were jailed for their part in running a brothel and prostitution ring. Details here