A 68-year old Frenchman has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for ordering nearly 50,000 euros ($67,690) worth of wine and going to extremes to avoid payment, including telling producers he had died.
The retiree ordered wines and Champagne from 23 producers over a three-year period, posing as a lawyer residing on the Champs-Élysées, one of the most desirable addresses in Paris. The invoices were sent to the fake address while the wines were delivered elsewhere.
When the producers chased up payment for the delivered goods, many received a reply saying the client had died, and some even sent the condolences to the family.
The defendant admitted the charges but claimed he had been forced to commit the crime by a restaurateur in his village, who bought the bottles off him at half the usual price. The accused added: “I don’t even drink.”
The man, who lives in Champagne’s Marne Valley on a pension of just 715 euros ($968) per month, claimed the deception “spiraled” and he “did not realize” the consequences of his actions.
However, the court heard that the man had been convicted of 18 other crimes since 1969, mainly fraud and deception, and the judge was unconvinced by his defense. “You’ve posed as a lawyer for 30 years,” the judge said. “It became a way of life for you."
“He is a scoundrel, a rogue,” admitted the man's lawyer. “But what he really needs is a psychiatric examination.”