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$1m Jack Daniel's fraudster caught with help from Sutton Council 17.06.10

A conman who carried out a fraud costing $1 million by switching bottles of Jack Daniel's with tampered ones has been jailed for 15 months.

Andrzej Szarzynski, 38, used an elaborate scam to steal over 400 bottles of Jack Daniel's from shops in towns and cities across England and Wales .

The father-of-two was eventually caught in an off-licence in Blackpool and convicted thanks to evidence gathered by trading standards officers at the London Borough of Sutton and other authorities.

Cllr Simon Wales, Executive Member for Communities, Transport and Voluntary Sector on Sutton Council, said: "This was a huge con which defrauded shops across England . Thanks to the hard work and diligence of trading standards officers, enough evidence was gathered to put this man behind bars."  

Szarzynski would drill a hole into the lid of a bottle, drain out the whiskey with a syringe and replace it with apple juice or tea. He then sealed the hole with a cocktail stick and painted it black with nail polish to hide evidence of tampering.

He would then go into a shop and ask for a bottle of Jack Daniel's before handing over a €10 note. When the cashier refused to accept the euros he would swap the bottles, handing back the fake one and keeping the genuine one for himself.  

The scam was first reported in Sussex and Kent and then in London. Further incidents then occurred in Leicester, Coventry, Birmingham , Liverpool, North Wales, the Wirral, Manchester and Blackpool before Szarzynski was caught.

He targeted at least 10 shops in the borough of Sutton alone. Pinu Patel, manager of a Londis store in Wallington Corner, Wallington, which fell victim to the con, said: "It was a bizarre scam but obviously a profitable one. I am pleased he has been brought to justice."

The conman pocketed £8,000 from the fraud but Brown-Forman, who own the Jack Daniel's brand, spent $1 million in private detectives to track down the fraudster.

They estimate that he stole 416 bottles, costing the company an extra £16,000 as they replaced each bottle with two as a goodwill gesture to clients.

Szarzynski, who had addresses in Coventry and Speke, Merseyside, was jailed at Preston Crown Court after pleading guilty to five charges of fraud, with another eight taken into consideration. The offences took place from January 2008 to May this year.

Sentencing him to 15 months in prison, Judge Mr Justice Henriques said: "While versions of this type of fraud have been perpetrated for time immemorial, the sheer scope of this particular scam is unique."

He was apprehended at a store in Cleveleys near Blackpool on May 9 after being confronted by a shopkeeper who had heard of the scam.

Last updated: Thursday, 08 July 2010

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