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Former California cult winery owner, Charles Banks, charged with fraud

Published:  12 September, 2016

Former owner of Screaming Eagle and Mayacamas, both cult wineries in California, Charles Augustus Banks IV, was charged on Friday 9 September 2016 with two counts of fraud.

Banks surrendered himself in a San Antonio courtroom and faced two charges of wire fraud over US$7.5 million from a retired professional NBA basketball star, Tim Duncan.

The same day the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Banks for securities fraud over what appears to be the same deal according local California media outlets. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been investigating Banks for over a year.

Banks first came into the wine trade after starting Terrior Capital an investment firm focused on high-end premium wines across California.

In 2006, he along with a professional basketball team owner in the US together purchased Screaming Eagle, the cult winery that commands some of the highest prices of all California wines. He sold his shares in Screaming Eagle in 2009 and when on to buy another high-end winery Mayacamas of Napa Valley and Qupé in Santa Barbara in 2013.

More recently he invested in Wind Gap Wines located in Sonoma and was also an investor in Rajat Parr's project, Sandhi wines from Santa Rita Hills, which he reportedly sold his shares earlier this year.

Banks is accused of swindling Duncan out over $7.5 million in 2012 when he advised Duncan to invest in a sports merchandising company called Gameday Entertainment, a company that Banks was the chairman of at the time. He then went on to con Duncan into guaranteeing a $6 million line of credit under the pretence that it would help reduce his financial exposure in the original investment.

He posted a $1 million bailbond  on Friday and was released, but will requested to answer the charges at later date in court.