Business

Cheap wine scam pair plead guilty

Surpluswines.co.uk adverts
Image caption The adverts promised fine wines and champagnes at up to 60% discounts

Two men responsible for a wine scam involving bogus newspaper adverts have pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

Denis Le Franq, who is 35 and a Belgian national and Jeremy Gillis, 33, from Leeds, admitted conspiracy to defraud.

Adverts in two national newspapers in March 2010 promised cheap wine from restaurants which had gone bust during the recession.

Customers paid hundreds of thousands of pounds up front but did not receive any wine.

When police were alerted, they found the business had suddenly been wound up and Denis Le Franq had left the country.

"Mr Le Franq ran this scam over a five-day period and amassed about £380,000," Det Insp Steve Taylor from West Yorkshire Police's Economic Crime Unit told the BBC Radio 4 programme You & Yours.

"We haven't been able to trace any wine and on searching the business premises in Leeds we haven't found any invoices or any agreements to purchase wine from any European importer or anybody at all."

Mr Le Franq had a restaurant in Leeds and used its chip and pin machine to take card payments from people responding to the adverts for the website, Surpluswines.co.uk, which had been set up a few weeks before.

Members of the public paid anything from £120 to £2000 a time.

"Mr Le Franq closed his business down," said Det Insp Steve Taylor.

"The administrators were called in, staff members couldn't get into work, so the alarm bells started ringing."

Police traced him to Prague where he was arrested on a European arrest warrant and brought back to the UK.

Jeremy Gillis, a businessman in Leeds, was found to have helped set up the wine business and place the newspaper ads.

The pair will be sentenced at a later date.

Radio 4's daily consumer programme, You & Yours reported on the wine scam on Thursday 9 June. The programme is available to listen online.

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