Seller gets house arrest, probation in wine fraud

Times Staff Writer

A Colorado wine merchant was sentenced Monday to two years’ house arrest and five years’ probation after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges for bilking clients out of millions of dollars for wine futures that he never delivered.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of seven to nine years in federal prison. But attorneys for Ronald Wallace, 49, who has Crohn’s disease, argued that he was too sick to be treated in prison.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall agreed. She ordered him to pay $11.2 million in restitution. In response to the prosecution’s charges that Wallace was healthy enough to work long hours and even ski, the judge enjoined him from taking part in any recreational activities such as skiing during his house arrest, according to U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Between 2000 and 2003, Wallace’s now-defunct wine outlet, Rare LLC, solicited connoisseurs across the country to buy specific vintages before they were bottled or marketed to the public.


He didn’t come through with the wines, but used money from the scheme to buy a luxury car and remodel his Aspen Valley home, prosecutors said.

Crohn’s disease is a condition that causes severe, persistent and painful inflammation throughout the digestive tract.