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Jeff Hill’s secret fraud trial indicates he may be an informant. Court removes indictment travel ban for job, but Hill has lost job

Jeff Hill. Photo courtesy of NY Times

The case of Jeffry James Hill’s curious, delayed, and very secretive federal court case on criminal fraud charges may be somewhat closer to a possible explanation.

 

While the official court record has suffered from a preponderance of sealed documents, Wine Industry Insight has learned that Hill may have become an informant working with prosecutors.

 

In addition, in May the court freed Hill from the indictment’s travel restrictions so he can work his new job at Vegalab. But since that ruling, he is no longer employed, and that may violate the terms of that court decision. However, official source lips are sealed more tightly than the secret court documents that have dominated the docket since May of 2017.

 

None of Hill’s three court-appointed attorneys have responded to Wine Industry Insight’s repeated requests for information. The same stonewalling holds for all of the U.S. Department of Justice attorneys associated with the case. The TTB has referred WII to DoJ.

 

Background

Hill was arraigned in federal court nearly two years ago (Nov. 2, 2016)  on two counts of wire fraud related to one of California’s largest and most visible wine, grape, and viticultural appellation fraud cases.
Since then, Hill has been free without bail on his own recognizance. This comes now more than four years after the TTB found at least 19 serious felony violations: TTB Carpet Bombs Hill Wine Co With Felony Allegations involving millions of dollars in damages including several bankruptcies and associated legal actions.
That continued legal inaction, has allowed Hill freedom to pursue  business interests including starting a company — The Agronomy Group — with friend Ryan Sweeney then selling it to a small public company: Wine grape outlaw Jeff Hill scores multi-million-dollar stock deal. As we will learn, that deal may have gone south in the past few months but details are scarce.

 

In addition, the situation has led many — including some sources within the TTB  — to question whether or not the DoJ is actually interested in major grape fraud. (TTB investigation source says Justice Dept. dropping ball on Jeff Hill Napa Valley grape fraud case).

 

“It sends a really bad message,” one TTB source told Wine Industry Insight.
The debacle even led the New York Times to question the integrity of wine from America’s premier region: In Vino Veritas. In Napa, Deceit.

 

The past two years of legal inaction have only reinforced those doubts.

 

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Also in this issue for premium subscribers:

  • More seals than the Monterey Bay Aquarium

  • Docket goes dark in May 2017 after a prosecution document claims a plea deal was imminent

  • Is Hill now out of compliance with his Court-approved travel freedom?

  • Curiouser and Curiouser: Do the court’s secrecy and leniency indicate that Hill is a government informant? Legal experts say  probable

Further information about sealing documents and cases

Previous Wine Industry Insight Coverage