The former head of a failed wine investment company in the UK has admitted conning customers out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Jonothan Piper, 30, admitted defrauding his investor clients and tax office HMRC.

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that Piper posed as a wine broker and preyed on the elderly and vulnerable.

He cold called victims and persuaded 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 court heard during a session on Tuesday 23 August.

Piper netted at least £300,000. One investor lost £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 of wine from Embassy.

This included a case of Château Haut-Brion 2004 for £10,000 in 2012. Other merchants were selling it for £2,400. The Embassy salesman claimed it should have cost £12,000.

Embassy offered to sell the woman’s wine collection for £60,000, but wanted £20,000 in ‘legal fees’ re-imbursable in seven days.

Piper also defrauded HMRC for £51,104 by failing to declare income between 2008 and 2014.

Embassy Wines UK Ltd was founded on 28 June 2011 and wound up in the public interest on 3 December 2014. Piper was the sole director and shareholder.

Piper has been jailed on Judges Remand and will be sentenced on 16 September. Last year, Piper was banned from being a UK company director for 11 years.

Wine investment fraud perpetrated by fake recovery companies is becoming more common. Typically, a company like this contacts a victim of a previous scam firm and offers deals on their wine portfolios well above market price.

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