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Wine Cellar to be Auctioned by the IRS

Ryan Isaac
Posted: December 7, 1999

The 1,000-bottle wine collection of former Napa Valley wine merchant David Wayne Oppenheimer will be auctioned off on Wednesday by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

On April 26, Oppenheimer, 37, was sentenced to seven years and three months in an Oregon state prison after pleading guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud and extortion. His wine collection and Napa home were subsequently forfeited as part of his sentencing, as both were "acquired with the proceeds of unlawful activity," according to assistant U.S. attorney Claire Fay. Additionally, Pamela Sue Oppenheimer, David's wife, was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to mail fraud.

The wine collection, which highlights Bordeaux, Burgundy and California Cabernet and Chardonnay among many others, will be sold in four lots -- French, other foreign wines, California and other U.S. wines. However, after bidding closes, the entire collection will be offered at a starting amount greater than the sum of all four lots. If a bid is made on the aggregate lot, then it will be sold as one unit. "Our job is to make the government the most money we can," said Sean Fraley, regional sales manager of EG&G, a private company that serves as property managers for the Department of the Treasury.

The wine was seized from Oppenheimer's cellar in May 1999 and transferred to a temperature-controlled room by EG&G.

The auction will be held at Oppenheimer's former residence, which also will be put on the block. Proceeds from the auction support the Treasury Asset Forfeiture Fund. For more information, contact Sean Fraley at (310) 639-2930.

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