A wine and liquor distributor operating in Bethpage, New York has been sentenced to 24 months in federal prison after defrauding investors.
Joseph Falcone was running the 3G’s VINO wine and liquor company when he hatched an investment scheme centered around the sale of the single-serve ‘wine-in-a-cup’ product Copa di Vino which had been featured on hit TV show Shark Tank.
3G’s VINO distributed Copa di Vino and according to prosecutors with the Eastern District of New York Falcone solicited investments by promising investors that their cash would be used to fund future purchases of the popular product.
Falcone used around $527,000 of these investments for his personal benefit, which included paying off the mortgage on a Florida property and funding online securities trading, say prosecutors.
Copa di Vino had gained nationwide attention after appearing on the investment reality TV show Shark Tank where businesses and entrepreneurs pitch their products to a panel of wealthy investors, including Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Kevin O’Leary and Daymond John.
Oregon-based Copa di Vino – which has not been accused of any wrongdoing – featured on Shark Tank when company founder James Martin presented the ‘on-the-go’ drink to investors. Although he didn’t receive funding as a result of his show pitch the drink garnered huge attention and sales of Copa di Vino rocketed.
From September 2014 to November 2015 Falcone used this TV cameo to persuade investors to hand over funds to his company.
‘Falcone’s victims were reeled in by his ‘Shark Tank‘ pitch, but with today’s sentence, the defendant is now squarely on the hook for his crimes,’ said acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Seth DuCharme, as Falcone was sentenced.
‘This Office remains committed to prosecuting those who mislead the public and abuse the trust placed in them to engage in fraud against their own investors.’
Falcone pleaded guilty. In a sentencing memorandum, he wrote a letter to the judge admitting to the fraud and apologising for using business funds for his personal use.
‘I took investors’ money for the purpose of investing it into a start-up wine business. Then, I wound up co-mingling funds with personal funds and using some of the investors’ money for my own ends. As the business grew, so did the expenses, and I wound up not being able to pay all of the investors back. I was wrong to do this. For this, I am deeply sorry and fully accept responsibility,’ he wrote.
As well as the 24-month sentence Falcone was also ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution to seven of 3G’s VINO’s investors.
Copa di Vino is not accused of any wrongdoing. James Martin, Copa di Vino founder told Decanter, ‘Joseph Falcone did not pitch Copa di Vino on Shark Tank, nor was he ever an investor in the product… In fact, I did not engage with his company, 3G’s VINO LLC, until four years after my Shark Tank pitch… but was very saddened to hear that he was using our Copa di Vino brand to mislead investors… We severed ties with Joseph and his company in 2016.’
Updated 13th October 2020