Press release

Jail for cold-caller who scammed elderly wine investors

Jonothan Piper, from Wanstead, has been sentenced to five and a half years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of fraudulent trading, two counts of money laundering and one count of cheating HM Revenue and Customs of tax at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 22 August 2016.

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Piper, 30, who was the director of Embassy Wine (UK) Limited and previously traded as a land and diamonds salesman, pleaded guilty to defrauding investors out of hundreds of thousands of pounds and to failing to pay tax and National Insurance on his earnings for six years.

Investors complained that they had been mis-sold expensive wine collections and had either not received the wine they were promised or were deceived in respect of the expected returns. Many investors were then persuaded to sell their wine collections to Piper’s company, but did not receive the promised payment. An investigation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that the self-professed fine-wine broker had not traded legitimately at all and had set up the company simply to con investors out of approximately £300,000.

BEIS discovered that HMRC was also conducting an investigation into Piper, and the matter was jointly prosecuted with the CPS. Piper also pocketed more than £51,000 in Income Tax and National Insurance contributions from his undeclared earnings, between 2008 and 2014.

Deputy Chief Investigation Officer Ian West from BEIS said:

Mr Piper cynically attempted to dissolve his company Embassy Wine (UK) Limited without notifying his creditors of his intention or complying with the three month trading restriction prior to any application for the striking off/dissolution of a company, to mask his fraudulent activity. It was established that he had defrauded his companies’ unsuspecting clients of in excess of £295,000 in a wine investment scam carried out, in conjunction with other frauds against the revenue to fund his expensive lifestyle. He now has to face the serious consequences of his criminal lifestyle.

This case should serve as a warning to those that seek to utilise the Insolvency regime to further fraudulent activity, that the BEIS Criminal Enforcement Directorate, will with law enforcement partners, ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted with the full force of the law.

Notes to editors

Jonothan Jeremiah Piper - date of birth 8 April 1986 - of Foxglove Gardens, Wanstead, pleaded guilty to: Acting with intent to prejudice or defraud HM Revenue and Customs, Fraudulent Trading, contrary to section 993(1) of the Companies Act 2006, Converting Criminal Property, contrary to section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2000 and Converting Criminal Property, contrary to section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2000, at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 22 August 2016.

He was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for defrauding HMRC and 3.5 years’ consecutive imprisonment for the fraudulent trading offence. He was sentenced to 15 months’ concurrent imprisonment for the two counts of money laundering.

On 17 November 2015 Mr Piper was disqualified as a director for 11 years.

BEIS’ mission is to build a dynamic and competitive UK economy, in particular by creating the conditions for business success and promoting an open global economy. The Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions team contributes to this aim by taking action to deter fraud and to regulate the market. They investigate and prosecute a range of offences, primarily relating to personal or company insolvencies. Further information about the work of the Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions team is available The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice.

Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.

Anyone with information concerning people involved with Insolvency related crime can contact the Insolvency Service Hotline.

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Published 30 September 2016