Family of fraudsters tricked elderly investors into handing over cash for fine wines in £4.5m scam

By Staff 0

  • They took an average of £5,000 from investors, many of them elderly
  • They pretended to have offices in upmarket Berkeley Square, Mayfair
  • Investors bought crates of Italian wine, to be sold at a profit in China
  • People never saw a return on the money they had put into the scam

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 15:14 EST, 17 July 2013 | UPDATED: 15:41 EST, 17 July 2013

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A family of fraudsters are facing jail for fleecing scores of elderly investors in a £4.5million fine-wine scam.

Daniel Snelling, 38, tricked them into putting thousands into Australian wine billed as ‘the best money could buy’.

With his sister Dina Snelling, 35, and their cousin Rebecca McDonald, 42, he promised to sell the wine at huge profits after three years in ‘premium’ storage.

Daniel Snelling, pictured left, and his sister Dina, right, persuaded elderly people to buy fine wine in a £4.5million scam - they both face a jail sentence alongside their cousin Rebecca McDonald (pictured below)

Their firm Nouveau World Wines raked in £2.5million by offering thousands of bottles of wine, but pulled the plug on the scam before investors could retrieve their cash.

Snelling then reinvested their ill-gotten gains in a second scam, Finbow Wines, selling cheap Italian wine at events such as the 2010 World Cup.

They took an average of £5,000 from investors, many of them elderly, and convinced some to buy 10,000 bottles a time.

Yesterday the Snellings were convicted of two charges of conspiracy to defraud after a two-month trial at Southwark Crown Court. Daniel Snelling was also convicted of two counts of converting criminal property.

Rebecca McDonald was also found guilty, on one count of conspiracy to defraud, with her cousins

Rebecca McDonald was also found guilty, on one count of conspiracy to defraud, with her cousins. She faces sentence on September 9

McDonald was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud, but the jury the jury failed to reach a verdict on a second, which has been left on the court file.

All three will be sentenced on September 9.

But French-speaking Simon Dempsey, 43, walked free after he was cleared by the jury of helping to front the Finbow Wines venture.

Daniel Snelling launched the fraud in January 2007 as the sole shareholder and company director of Nouveau World Wines.

With sister Dina as office director and McDonald, a former employee of accountancy giant KPMG, working as business development manager, they cold-called victims promising top-end wines as a better investment than stocks and shares.

They pretended to have offices in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, when in fact this was just a postal address for their actual base in Greenwich, south-east London.

Once potential investors had been snared with promises of 30 per cent profits and low risk, they were sent a glossy brochure pledging the wine would be stored in a premium temperature-controlled facility in Australia.

Between January 2007 and August 2009, Snelling’s firm promised to make 39,000 bottles of fine wine, but in fact produced just a quarter of that.

‘When investors asked for their wine to be sold, to realise their investment, they found it was easier said than done’, said prosecutor Julian Christopher.

‘When they made enquiries about their wine, in a great many instances, they couldn’t find any.’

Facing the heat of investors who had put in £2.5million, Dempsey pulled the plug on Nouveau World Wines and ploughed much of profit into a new venture, Finbow Wines.

Southwark Crown Court where Daniel Snelling, 38, his sister Dina and cousin Rebecca McDonald have been found guilty of defrauding investors

Southwark Crown Court where they appeared - the three pretended to have offices in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, but only had a postal address in Greenwich, south-east London

This scam involved convincing investors to buy crates of Italian wine, which would be sold at a profit in China at the Chinese New Year and at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

But once again investors never saw a return on the money put into the scam.

‘It was a different enterprise, but unlike Nouveau, it was always going to be a short term project’, said Mr Christopher.

‘With Nouveau, investors could be told the wine shouldn’t be sold, to increase in value, which would mean it would be a long time before they discovered they didn’t actually have any wine to sell.

‘With Finbow, the wine would be sold quite quickly and the defendants had to move quickly.

‘£2million was generated in little over six months, representing something like 50 containers of wine, shipping containers used to transport by sea.’

But just two containers were actually purchased and shipped to China.

Just as Snelling and his cohorts were about to pull the plug again and move on to a third wine scam venture, selling Old World wines, police moved in on March 4, 2010.’

Daniel Snelling, of Sutton, south London, denied but was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to defraud and two further counts of converting criminal property.

Dina Snelling, of Chislehurst, south-east London, was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to defraud.

McDonald, of Bexleyheath, south-east London, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a second conspiracy charge, which has been left on the court file.

McDonald will face sentence, together with Daniel and Dina Snelling, on September 9.

Dempsey, of (30) Sidcup, south-east London, denied conspiracy to defraud and converting criminal property, and was cleared.

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