Wine-futures seller faces sentence
October 29, 2006
LOS ANGELES – Ronald Wallace promised he could deliver rare, fine wines at bargain prices. But his clients were left with sour grapes.Wallace, 49, who ran his business from Basalt dabbled in wine futures, an established yet unregulated system that allows customers to purchase a specific vintage years before it’s bottled and publicly released.When Wallace’s operation collapsed in early 2003, hundreds of clients claimed they were owed as much as $13 million worth of wine.Most of it was never purchased. Instead, Wallace used money to buy a BMW and to pay his country club bill and contractors working on his house, court documents show.Wallace and federal prosecutors agreed he would be held liable for more than $2.5 million when he is scheduled to be sentenced today. As part of the deal, Wallace pleaded guilty in June 2005 to two counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.The Colorado man could be eligible for 70 years in prison, but prosecutors have recommended seven to nine years behind bars.Wallace declined to comment. Several phone messages left for his attorney, Marilyn Bednarski, were not returned.