Warehouse owner pleads guilty to stealing $1.5m of wine

The owner of a wine storage facility has pleaded guilty at a court in Maryland to embezzling his clients out of between US$550,000 and $1.5 million worth of wine over a five-year period.

William Lamont Holder, 54, submitted his pleas to a court in Maryland on Tuesday (14 May) after being charged with wire fraud.

According to his plea, Holder owned and operated Safe Harbour Wine Storage in Glen Burnie. In return for monthly payments, Holder arranged for his customers’ wine to be taken to the storage facility.

Between January 2013 and December 2017, Holder took payments for wine storage, but without his customers’ knowledge or consent, he subsequently offered their wine for sale to retailers and brokers around the US, for example in Napa in California. Holder did not hold a license to sell wine in the the state of Maryland.

After selling the wine he continued to collect the monthly storage fees and accept more wine for storage at his facility.

Holder presented himself as the legal owner of the bottles stored at his warehouse, providing inventory lists complete with asking prices. He arranged for the shipment of the wines and sent out his bank account information with the package.

Court documents revealed that Holder completed four transactions totalling 932 bottles for $89,772 to broker(s) in Napa in 2016-2017. He also arranged a deal with a retailer in Washington D.C who was offered 92 bottles for $15,000. Further details of the wines stolen by Holder have not been revealed.

Holder has agreed to pay the restitution under the terms of his plea. Providing the court accepts this agreement, Holder will be sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. His sentencing has been scheduled for 31 July.

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