Daniel Snelling was set to pull off a triple crown wine con when the walls began closing in. From boiler room cold-calls in 2007 to a seven-year prison sentence in 2013 — and millions of dollars in between — Snelling pulled the strings on a family-run scam in grand grifter fashion.
Snelling, 38, along with sister Dina Snelling, 35, and cousin Rebecca McDonald, 43, kicked off the scheme in 2007 by dangling the financial promise of Australian wines as “the best that money could buy.” Through a cold-call operation based southeast of London, they fished for investors with a front company, Nouveau World Wines, and promised 39,000 bottles of fine wine and 30 percent returns in a mere three years. The investors poured in, many of them retired and elderly, hoping for a payoff that would never come.
Snelling produced only a fraction of the promised wine — just enough to offer a skin of legitimacy — and prepared for his next move in the shell game, all the while raking in $4 million with Nouveau World Wines. With his ear to the ground, Snelling closed up shop as questions from investors began to mount. Snelling wasn’t just disappearing with hobby investments — the money represented life-savings for many of the victims.
In 2010, Snelling took a portion of his gain and started Finbow Wines, once again planning to suck investors dry. From the Telegraph: “They raked in an average of £5,000 [$8,000] from investors — many of them elderly — and even persuaded some to buy 10,000 bottles a time. In fact, only a fraction of the wine was ever produced.” The Finbow Wines scam was even more lucrative than Nouveau, bringing in $3.2 million in only six months. It was the shiny high life for both the Snellings and McDonald: designer clothes, plastic surgery and luxury vehicles. Just as they were preparing to shutter Finbow Wines and move on to a third con in March of 2010, the police caught up.
The trio showed little genuine contrition, shifting blame toward circumstance and investment risks; invoking the golden parachutes of depression and anxiety; and tossing out pity-inducing buzzwords as remorse substitutes. (It was a bizarre twist when the defense used “penniless, homeless, bankrupt” as a description of the defendants — not the investment victims.)
The jury didn’t buy their claims; and neither did Judge Michael Grieve as he sentenced Daniel Snelling to seven and half years in prison in September 2013: “In my assessment you are not so much a cold and calculated criminal, but one whose conscience is eased by self-delusion and denial.” McDonald was sentenced at the same time to three years in prison, and one month later, Dina Snelling was sentenced to three years and 11 months.
Even if the wine fraudster trio had succeeded with the triple crown con, the scams would have continued. Investors by the hundreds and millions more in profit would never have been enough to satisfy the trio’s greed. More high life, more flash and more cold-calls from the boiler room.
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