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Pensioner fakes death to avoid EUR50,000 wine bill

A French pensioner who pretended he was dead to avoid paying tens of thousands of euros in unpaid wine bills has been sentenced to 18 months of electronic cuff surveillance, with 10 months suspended.

The prosecutor for the Tribunal de Créteil in Paris named the accused as 68-year-old Jean Claude Belpaume and confirmed to decanter.com that the swindles took place between 2009 and 2012.

Belpaume’s total bill for wine and Champagne, ordered from 19 different suppliers over those years, was close to EUR50,000.

Belpaume used different addresses for delivery and billing. When suppliers tried to recoup payment from the Champs-Élysées billing address, Belpaume told them he was a lawyer and that their client was dead. Some suppliers sent condolence cards.

Court reports from Agence France Press said Belpaume, who lives in Sucy-en-Brie, to the north east of Paris, and receives a monthly EUR715 pension, has a history of posing as a lawyer that stretches back to 1969. 

‘It’s 30 years that you have been a fake lawyer,’ the judge said. “Ah well, I’ll not continue,” replied the accused.

Belpaume did not attempt to deny the wine-related charges in court, only saying he didn’t drink wine and that he was persuaded into the fraud by a restaurant owner, to whom he sold the wine at half price. He has until 12 December to appeal the sentence.

Written by Sophie Kevany

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