Wine Ponzi Schemer John Fox Released Early from Prison

The former owner of bankrupt retailer Premier Cru, who defrauded customers out of millions of dollars in collectible wines, now faces probation and substantial debts to his victims

Wine Ponzi Schemer John Fox Released Early from Prison
John Fox, in 2011, cuts the ribbon on now-bankrupt Premier Cru's new location. (Courtesy of Premier Cru)
Feb 26, 2021

John Fox, the wine shop owner who admitted to conducting a two-decade long, multimillion-dollar wine Ponzi scheme, was released Feb. 23 from North Carolina’s Residential Reentry Management (RRM) Raleigh facility after serving four years of his six-plus year sentence for wire fraud. The former owner of Berkeley wine retailer Premier Cru, which promised customers highly collectible European wines at lower-than-normal prices, was released two years early. The threat of COVID-19 in U.S. prisons, coupled with Fox's age, 70, may have played a role in his early release; some inmates are also eligible for sentence reduction based on good behavior.

According to Michael Kasolas, Premier Cru's Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, Fox took in $45 million worth of orders from at least 9,000 customers who never received the wines they paid for. As part of the plea deal, Fox has agreed to pay back those customers, some of whom lost upwards of $1 million.

Gene Vorobyov, a San Francisco attorney appointed to represent Fox, declined to comment.

Fox's release follows that of infamous wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, who completed his sentence in November 2020.


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