Financially Distressed Companies

$45 million California wine fraud hits Chicago wallets

$45 million California wine fraud hits Chicago wallets

Chicago wine enthusiasts who thought they were buying wine futures at an incredible price were instead financing a 66-year-old California man's penchant for fast cars, women and golf.

By the time Fox Ortega Enterprises — which operated as now-defunct Berkeley, Calif., wine retailer Premier Cru — filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January, thousands of customers had paid more than $45 million for wine they never received, according to court documents. The bankruptcy filing listed more than 250 Illinois residents owed money, many of them from Chicago and the North Shore.

After an FBI investigation, John E. Fox, 66, president of the company, was charged in June with...

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