- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A San Francisco Bay Area wine shop owner who prosecutors say bilked customers out of tens of millions of dollars in a wine Ponzi scheme has been sentenced to 6½ years in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato described John Fox’s conduct during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing as a long-running empire of deception. The 66 year-old Fox owned Premier Cru, a now-bankrupt wine shop in Berkeley.

He pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, acknowledging that he falsified purchase orders for wine he never contracted to buy, entered the phantom wine into Premier Cru’s inventory and then sold it. Prosecutors say at the time the business went bankrupt, Fox’s customers were owed about $45 million for wine that they had not received.

Donato scheduled a hearing in January to determine restitution.

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