A wine-world grifter gets two years in prison for scamming N.Y.C. oenophiles out of US$7 million

By Tori Latham 17 June, 2024
wine omar khan

Omar Khan carried out a “wine-and-dine scheme” in which he lured investors with fancy bottles and meals, then used the money for personal spending

There will be no popping of bottles for one New York businessman.

On Monday, Omar Khan was sentenced to two years in prison for a so-called wine-and-dine scheme that defrauded oenophiles of some US$7 million, New York magazine’s Grub Street reported. Khan had pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft back in March, as he pretended to be his own attorney during the con. That plea resulted in another charge of wire fraud, with a longer prison sentence, being dropped.

“You are very, very, very, very fortunate there is a two-year cap,” Paul A. Engelmayer, a U.S. district judge, said during the hearing, according to Grub Street. “The facts of this crime would favour a much higher sentence.”

From about 2015 to 2019, Khan defrauded multiple people by getting them to invest in wine tastings and networking events. The businessman would host similar events featuring rare and vintage bottles alongside luxe dinners, with dishes such as Nantucket bay scallops, oysters, caviar, and uni, according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. During these gatherings, Khan would convince the attendees to invest their money with him for even more events, saying that they would eventually earn a profit.

Instead, the money simply disappeared. Khan embezzled the funds and used them for his own personal spending, then lied to his investors about why he couldn’t pay them back. That included Khan sending emails in which he impersonated his own lawyer, resulting in the prison sentence handed down this week.

“Omar Khan’s wine-and-dine scheme did not age well,” James Smith, the FBI assistant director in charge, said in a statement. “For four years, Khan exploited the prestigious reputation of the wine industry to embezzle millions of dollars from well-intended investors using empty promises of future, lavish networking events while offering excuses for the lack of returns. He utilised his public notoriety as a wine aficionado to lure and coax his victims into financing significant amounts, costing some the entirety of their investments. Today’s sentence emphasises the FBI’s tireless efforts investigating those who manipulate their social status and relationships to deprive others of their wealth.”

Along with the two-year term, Khan was ordered to pay US$6.7 million in restitution to his victims, and he was given one year of supervised release.

This story first appeared on Robb Report USA