Wine Name:

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