Fake fine wine trader jailed after £100k scam

Lasse Hartmann has been sentenced to four years in prison for masterminding a £100,000 scam in which he pretended to be a multi-millionaire businessman trading in fine wine and Champagne.

Hartmann, 44 and a Danish national, sold wine investment packages and used the money to fund his expensive lifestyle. Following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Fraud and Linked Crime Online unit, it was revealed that 20 people had fallen victim to the fraudster.

Commenting on the case, PC Alex Ramsay of the Met’s Falcon Unit who investigated the scam, said: “Hartmann is a professional conman and fraudster. He didn’t care about the people he was hurting, either financially or emotionally. He exploited everyone around him, not least the woman who thought that she was going to marry him.”

“He used her status as a respected food blogger to give him credibility and from there managed to convince a number of businesses to go into partnership with him. He never had any intention of delivering his side of the bargain and simply used their money to fund his lavish lifestyle and gambling habit.”

“Hartmann is now facing the very real prospect of time in prison, which reflects the devastation and misery he has caused to such a large number of victims”.

Hartmann’s victims lost more than £104,000 and many are still out of pocket. Hartmann paid back a total of £18,000 after realising the police were investigating him.

The scam started in January 2014 when Hartmann began an online relationship with a woman from Ilford. Using the alias Lars Petraeus, he convinced the woman that he was a wealthy businessman trading in fine wine. Winning her trust, he convinced the woman to loan him several thousand pounds citing cash-flow problems, while also taking control of two inactive bank accounts in the woman’s name.

The woman was an influential food blogger who provided Hartmann with contacts in the food industry that he also went on to exploit, promising and failing to deliver wine and Champagne to them.

An online meat trader was also conned by Hartmann after he invested with the fraudster in the belief that he was expanding his business into the wine trade. He purchased wine, fridges and IT equipment from Hartmann that never arrived and his business lost a total of almost £20,000.

Through his association with this other businesses, Hartmann contacted the staff of partner companies, offering wine investment packages priced at £240 and above, receiving a total of £11,000 from unsuspecting individuals.

He hired a personal assistant and chauffeur to give him further legitimacy, however, he left them both with unpaid wages totalling £25,000 as well as convincing his driver to invest £2,500 in wine.

Hartmann also duped a chef out of £3,500 and a wedding planner, who invested £5,500 in a wine package and whose business lost £25,000 in revenue, after being involved in organising Hartmann’s bogus wedding.

In April this year, Hartmann was convicted of 22 counts of fraud and on 19 July, at Snaresbrook Crown Court, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

After completion of his sentence, Hartmann will return to Denmark as he is wanted by Danish authorities ‘for breaching the terms of his sentence there,’ having been earlier convicted of similar fraudulent offences in the country.

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