A Maryland man who owned a storage and transportation business for upscale wines admitted Tuesday to stealing customers’ wines, and selling them to retailers and brokers in Napa and elsewhere, court documents show.
William Lamont Holder, 54, pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for stealing between $550,000 and $1.5 million of wine from customers of his Maryland-based business, Safe Harbour Wine Storage, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday in a press release. An indictment filed in December accused him of obtaining at least $2.3 million as a result of the scheme.
Holder's business is not affiliated with Safe Harbor Wine Storage in Napa.
The indictment singles out four transactions between Holder and at least one unnamed wine broker in Napa, totaling nearly $90,000 for about 932 bottles of wine. It also mentions a fifth transaction for a Washington, D.C. wine broker who purchased about 92 bottles for $15,000.
All five transactions took place in 2016 and 2017.
Safe Harbour Wine Storage primarily dealt with private collectors and commercial establishments, according to the indictment. The company charged a monthly fee and pick-up charges to transport customers’ wines to a storage facility in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Customers could pay a delivery fee to have their wine sent to them, instead of picking it up at the facility, according to the indictment.
Holder’s customers did not know that he was offering their wine for sale to wine retailers and brokers nationwide, and sending potential buyers detailed lists of bottles of wines in his storage, including their vintages and asking prices via email and fax, according to the press release. Holder then boxed and shipped the wines, and buyers would wire the money into his account or send a check, prosecutors said.
Holder schemed to use his customers’ wines from January 2013 to December 2017, according to the press release.
Holder agreed to be sentenced to 18 months in prison, if the U.S. District Court of Maryland accepts his plea, according to the press release. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has slated his sentencing for July 31.
This story has been modified since first posting to clarify that Safe Harbor Wine Storage in Napa is not related to Safe Harbour Wine Storage in Maryland.