A sales director of a wine-based investment program was sentenced by a British court to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that the program was a $45 million Ponzi scheme. Richard Gunter pled guilty for his role in the scheme that promised investors large returns from making short-term investments in various spirits, including brandy, cognac, and wine. Gunter's conviction is the third to date for former Vintage Hallmark employees.
According to investigators at the Serious Fraud Office in England, Vintage Hallmark and the Hallmark Partnership solicited individuals in Canada and the United States to invest in fine wines and whiskeys. A ten-month investment in champagne yielded 50%, while a three-month whisky investment yielded 110%. When these investments matured, investors were then persuaded to roll over these fictitious profits into further ventures secured by promissory notes. In total, over 300 individuals invested thirty million pounds, which equates to over $45 million. The scheme unraveled in 2003.
Gunter has already been convicted and sentenced in 2008 to nearly five years in prison for his role in a similar spirits-based scam.