Mr. Lazar was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon and the Domaine St. Louis premises were searched. Numerous items were seized, including various computer hard drives which were copied on site. Bond has been set at $25,000 cash. As of 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on Thursday November 10, 2016, Mr. Lazar remained in custody.
The investigation is expected to continue for one to two months based on the materials obtained in the search and additional criminal charges may be filed. The team which conducted the arrest and search included personnel from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, the Missouri Department of Public Safety Alcohol Enforcement Division, and the FBI.
If convicted, it is likely that Mr. Lazar will lose all all other licenses that he holds in other states, such as licenses in the State of New Jersey to operate a public warehouse for alcoholic beverages and a permit to ship wines within the State of New Jersey, because the state licensing statutes generally prohibit a person convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving the sale or marketing of alcoholic beverages from holding any type of liquor license.
Marc Lazar's Previous Sex Crime Convictions Prohibit Him or His Companies from Holding the Required Licenses in Missouri
Marc Lazar is a previously-convicted sex offender. By virtue of his two felony sex offenses involving a 13 year old girl, Mr. Lazar cannot ever hold a liquor license of any type in the State of Missouri and he cannot serve as an officer or owner of a company with a liquor license. As a result, neither Cellar Advisors nor Domaine Wine Storage hold a Missouri liquor license – or ever have held such a license. Nevertheless, Marc Lazar, Cellar Advisors and Domaine Wine Storage have for many years offered, sold and transported wines within the State of Missouri (and elsewhere) without the required liquor licenses. This is a felony under Missouri law.
Marc Lazar’s Felony Sex Offense Convictions
Marc Daniel Lazar was born December 24, 1976. He attended Washington University in St. Louis from 1994 to 1998 and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree. In 2000 he received a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from St. Louis University. He then enrolled in Medical School. While in medical school Marc Lazar committed two felony sex offenses -- first degree statutory sodomy and first degree statutory rape of a 13 year old girl. At the time these offenses took place, on March 16, 2003, Marc. Lazar was 26 years old.
Mr. Lazar pled guilty to the two felony counts on January 26, 2005. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for each count, with the prison sentence suspended except for 120 days to be served in county jail. Lazar appealed his sentence, but it was affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals in a published opinion on October 25, 2005. State of Missouri v Lazar, 182 S.W.3d 578 (Mo.App. E.D. 2005). You will find the opinion here: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mo-court-of- ... 03641.html. Marc Lazar is listed in the Missouri Sex Offender Registry. https://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/CJ38/ ... id=1263328
Marc Lazar - (L) Cellar Advisors Website + (R) 2014 Mo. Sex Offender Registry
Lazar’s Ownership of Cellar Advisors, Domaine Wine Storage and Domaine Transit
According to his deposition testimony in federal civil litigation brought against Cellar Advisors in Chicago that was concluded this past March, Marc Lazar first began working in the wine industry in 1999 while attending graduate school at St. Louis University. Lazar worked as a salesperson for Wine Merchant of St. Louis.
Mr. Lazar’s arrest and conviction on child sexual abuse charges ended his plans to be a physician. Lazar dropped out of medical school. He subsequently established Cellar Advisors in St. Louis, which provided consulting, inventory and logistics services for wine collectors. According to the records of the Missouri Secretary of State, Cellar Advisors LLC was first established on July 14, 2005 -- six months after Lazar pled guilty to the two felonies listed above. Marc Lazar was listed as the sole organizer and managing member of Cellar Advisors.
On August 1, 2006, Mr. Lazar established a wine storage business in St. Louis which operated under the fictitious business name Domaine Wine Storage. This business was also organized as Missouri limited liability company, which was named Cellar LLC. Marc Lazar was listed as the sole founder and managing member. The name of the LLC was subsequently changed to Domaine Saint Louis, LLC. Domaine Wine Storage today provides commercial wine storage in St. Louis, Chicago, Edison NJ, Napa (via sub-leased facilities) and Washington DC. The Chicago, New Jersey and Washington DC locations are organized into separate LLCs, each of which is owned by Domaine Management, LLC, another Missouri LLC founded by Marc Lazar in 2011.
Mr. Lazar also owns and manages Domaine Transit, LLC, an entity organized in 2012 to handle wine shipping for Cellar Advisors and Domaine Wine Storage customers. Since at least 2006 Cellar Advisors and Domaine Wine Storage have offered wine shipping and wine moving services both in the State of Missouri and throughout the United States.
Cellar Advisors, Domaine Wine Storage, and Domaine Transit are all located at 3300 Samuel Shepard Drive, St. Louis MO 63103 https://domainestorage.com/about-domaine-storage/ This is also Marc Lazar’s registered work address on the Missouri Sex Offender Registry. (See https://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/CJ38/ ... id=1263328
Lazar, Cellar Advisors and Domaine Storage Do Not Hold, and Cannot Lawfully Hold, a Missouri Liquor License
At no time since January 26, 2005, the date of Marc Lazar’s criminal convictions, have Marc Lazar, Cellar Advisors or Domaine Wine Storage held a liquor license in the State of Missouri.
Under Missouri Revised Statutes § 311.060 and Missouri Alcoholic Beverage Regulations, Title 11, Division 70, Chapter 2, Section 11, any person who has been convicted of a sexual offense under Chapter 566 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, which includes both statutory rape (§ 566.032) and statutory sodomy (§ 566.050), the crimes of which Mr. Lazar was convicted, is permanently prohibited from holding a liquor license or engaging in the sale of wine or alcoholic beverages in the State of Missouri. The same statute and regulation prohibit anyone convicted of such offenses from being an owner or officer of an entity holding a liquor license.
Thus, Marc Lazar was at all times after January 26, 2005 prohibited from engaging in the sale of wine within the State of Missouri. Similarly, Cellar Advisors LLC and Domaine Storage have at all times been prohibited from obtaining a liquor license since Marc Lazar is the owner and managing member of both entities.
Illegal Sales and Brokering of Wine by Cellar Advisors and Domaine Storage
Notwithstanding the absence of a liquor license, Marc Lazar, Cellar Advisors and Domaine Wine Storage regularly offer and sell wines to their customers both in Missouri and throughout the United States. Since at least the fall of 2010 (and likely earlier) Marc Lazar has regularly sent out emailed wine offers and has sold wine on behalf of Cellar Advisors and Domaine Storage. In 2010 and 2011, these offers included counterfeit wines being sold for Rudy Kurniawan, as discussed discussed in a prior post in the Rudy Kurniawan/wine counterfeiting thread. http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/vie ... 1#p1811501
Since November of 2014, Marc Lazar has sent out a continuous stream of emails to all Cellar Advisors and Domaine Wine Storage customers (generally one or two emails per week) offering wines for sale. For example, an email offer from Mr. Lazar, dated August 4, 2015, begins as follows:
- Dear Collectors,
Today we are very excited to bring you an offer of great wines priced below recent auction or retail. These bottles are all in perfect condition at our St. Louis warehouse.
Possibly more exciting, we are rolling out on online inventory and checkout process. You can always reserve bottles by replying to our emails, but now you can complete your purchase online, in real time!
This is a new process for us, so we welcome your feedback and comments. Our goal is to bring you excellent wines, sourced from your fellow storage clients and our trade partners at extremely sharp prices.
Cellar Trading LLC is nominally located at the same address as Domaine Wine Storage Washington DC -- 4221 Connecticut Avenue NW, lower level. However, as explained below, there is no sales operation of any kind at the Domaine DC location. There are no personnel involved in sales of wine located in Washington DC. Neither of the owners or a Registered Manager is present at the Cellar Trading location in Washington DC during all business hours as required by ABRA Regulation 707.1. Rather all of the sales personnel are located in St. Louis along with Marc and Katherine Lazar. Moreover, on March 2, 2016, the District of Columbia issued a formal cease and desist order which prohibits the sale of wine by any business located at 4221 Connecticut Avenue NW and also prohibits the consumption of any wine at that location.
On March 17, 2016, Marc Lazar testified at the trial of Great Northern Insurance Company v. Cellar Advisors, a civil litigation matter pending in Federal District Court in Chicago. In response to questions from his own lawyer, Mr. Lazar testified about his companies' sale of wine as follows:
- "Q. Do you personally buy and sell wine?
A. Well , separate from my business, wine is also a hobby. So yes I buy and sell wine for myself and I buy and sell wine personally for my clients.
Q. Okay. And between you and your clients, just give the ladies and gentlemen of the jury a general ballpark figure of how many bottles of wine, and I don 't know if that's the proper terminology, of wine that you deal with on a yearly basis?
A. Well , in a given year we will probably transact about $10 million worth of wine for our clients, not me personally, and that will represent roughly 50 to 100,000 bottles. So each bottle is valuable and there are many of them.
Q. And how do wines get exchanged? In other words is it seller to buyer or is it through auction houses? How does it work?
A. So alcohol is a regulated product in all 50 states. So a citizen, a public citizen who owns wine cannot put an ad on Craigslist or eBay, or anything like that to sell wine. You can only sell wine through an entity that has the right licenses to buy it from you and then to sell it to someone else."
- "Cellar Advisors also helps collectors buy wine in the marketplace, either from retailers or auction houses, or brokers overseas. And likewise, when people want to get rid of wine, we help them send it to an auction house, send it to a broker, send it to a store who can sell it on their behalf, and we manage all of the paperwork and, you know, the logistics of that."
- "Q . Okay. Before we go further with Mr. Searle, I just want to ask you a couple of questions more on Cellar Advisors. How many locations are you at now?
A. Cellar Advisors consulting business has only one location, we operate that business out of St. Louis and our entire staff is there with one remote employee who works from home in New York.
Q. And then you have what I'm going to call a sister company?
A. Our sister company Domaine Storage, we have four locations, St. Louis, Chicago, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. and we have a flex space arrangement in Napa Valley which is where a lot of wine is made for seasonal storage when we need it.
Q. And how many employees are both companies up to now?
A. About 40."
Cellar Trading LLC in Washington DC
On January 29, 2014, Katherine Lazar, the wife of Marc Lazar, and the managing member of a newly-created Missouri LLC named Cellar Trading, LLC applied for an Internet only retail sales license to be operated from the Domaine Wine Storage DC facility located at 4221 Connecticut Avenue NW in Washington DC. At that time, because Marc Lazar's felony convictions were less than ten years old, he was prohibited by the District of Columbia law from owning any interest in any liquor license issued there. In January 2016, after Mr. Lazar's sex crime convictions had reached their tenth anniversary, Marc Lazar applied for permission and officially became a co-owner of Cellar Trading LLC along with his wife Katherine.
Cellar Trading was licensed as an "internet only" retail site in March of 2014. At the time that the Cellar Trading license was issued, Domaine Wine Storage held no licenses or permits from ABRA, the Washington DC liquor-regulating authority. Previously however, from May 3, 2012 through May 3, 2013, Domaine Wine Storage DC held a public warehouse permit which permitted it to store wines in its warehouse for licensed importers, wholesalers and retailers. But by the time that Cellar Trading LLC applied for and obtained its "internet only" retail sales license in 2014, the Domaine Wine Storage public warehouse permit had lapsed.
By statute and the terms of ABRA Regulation 205.5, wines in Washington DC may not be sold from or consumed at any location where a public warehouse permit for alcoholic beverages is in effect. Thus, when Domaine Wine Storage's public warehouse permit was in effect in 2012-13, the permit expressly stated that the “sale, service or consumption of alcoholic beverages at the storage facility location is prohibited.”
In late 2015, ABRA commenced an investigation of Domaine Wine Storage DC. Last November ABRA determined that Domaine Wine Storage was operating a public warehouse at 4221 Connecticut Avenue NW without a license and that Domaine Wine Storage was operating a wine tasting room at the same address as the public warehouse operation, in violation of ABRA Regulation 205.5 and the applicable statutes. Domaine Wine Storage DC promptly filed an application to renew its public warehouse license, claiming that the public warehouse license had been allowed to lapse inadvertently. ABRA re-issued the public warehouse license to Domaine Wine Storage, but proceeded to find that wine tasting room being operated at 4221 Connecticut Avenue within the Domaine Wine Storage facility was in direct violation of Regulation 205.5 which prohibits the sale or consumption of wine at any location at which a public warehouse permit is in effect.
On March 2, 2016, ABRA issued Cease and Desist Order No. 2016-102, which ordered the wine tasting room at Domaine Wine Storage DC to be shut down That Order further states in pertinent part that “The Board advises Domaine that a copy of this Order is being forwarded to the Metropolitan Police Department and licensed wholesalers to ensure compliance. If it is found that the sale, service, or consumption of alcohol continues at this location without the approval from the Board, Mr. [Lazar] may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties.” (Emphasis added). Thus, ABRA's March 2, 2016 Cease and Desist Order prohibits the sale of any wines from 4221 Connecticut Avenue NW -- the very location where Cellar Trading, LLC purports to continue to operate.
Perhaps more importantly, the purported Cellar Trading LLC retail wine business in Washington DC simply doesn’t exist. The retail sale operations are conducted entirely out of St. Louis by Marc Lazar and his St. Louis-based employees such as Will Ferring, who acts as the principal salesperson for the Lazar entities. The website for Cellar Trading, LLC, which is listed in its advertising on WineSearcher.com, is the Domaine Wine Storage website in St. Louis. http://domainestorage.com/productcategory/. The listed phone number for Cellar Trading is (314) 667-5328, but that is actually the St. Louis phone number for Domaine Wine Storage. The Cellar Trading LLC inventory listed on WineSearcher.com is 100% identical to the wine inventory listed on the Domaine Wine Storage website. Cellar Trading LLC has gone so far as to rename itself, without the permission of ABRA, in violation of ABRA Regulation 600.1, as “Domaine Wine Market.”
There is no office or other location within the Domaine DC storage facility from which Cellar Trading LLC operates. There is only a single small office of approximately 10 feet by 12 feet in size in which the two Domaine DC employees (Alex Crawford and John Portillo) work. Neither of these employees have any involvement in selling wine. There is no employee of Cellar Trading LLC in Washington DC who is, or ever has been, employed at 4221 Connecticut Avenue NW. Katherine Lazar and Mark Lazar both reside and work in St. Louis Missouri and are not physically on site to manage the Cellar Trading LLC business as required by DC Code §§ 25-301(a)(6) and 25-701 and ABRA Regulations 501.1(a) and 707.1. There is no licensed manager for Cellar Trading LLC who is registered with ABRA as required by ABRA regulation 707.1 and there never has been. Rather the purported business of Cellar Trading LLC is solely operated and managed by Marc Lazar, Will Ferring and the Cellar Advisors staff out of St. Louis Missouri, as Mr. Lazar candidly admitted in his Federal trial testimony earlier this year.
Are the Charges Thusfar Filed the Proverbial Tip of the Iceberg?
The two felony charges filed thusfar would appear to be only the beginning of the potential charges that could be filed here.
For example, one of the consequences of selling liquor without a license in the State of Missouri is that the Lazar entities do not charge Missouri sales tax. The failure to collect and remit Missouri sales tax is chargeable as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Shipping of wine into, within or out of the State of Missouri requires a special Wine Transporter license. Shipping wine without that license is a felony. None of the Lazar entities have ever held such a license.
In order to ship wines via UPS or FedEx, both companies require that the shipper certify in writing that shipper is a licensed retailer and is authorized to ship wines. The Lazar entities have been shipping wines via UPS and FedEx for years, but do not hold the required licenses. Approximately five weeks ago, UPS suspended shipping wines for the Lazar entities from any location based upon the false representations by Domaine Wine Storage that it is a licensed retailer authorized to ship such wines. The false representation of licensed status to UPS and FedEx, and the continuing shipment of wines based upon the false representation of Domaine's licensed status, is likely a felony violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act has also been held to apply to a situation where a licensed out of state alcohol seller offers for sale via the internet or email, and solicits and accepts orders from Missouri residents of alcohol which under Missouri law would require a Missouri liquor license. The decision in question, commonly known as the Beer Nuts decision, would appear to make every email offer sent out by Marc Lazar and every order booked on the Domaine web server, a felony under Missouri law.
Under Missouri law when a company changes its address, as the Lazar entities did in 2015, the entity must file a Form 126 with the Missouri Department of Revenue. That form contains a series of questions which relate to sales and use taxes and special licensing required in the State of Missouri. The form contains the following question:
- "Do you make retail sales of the following items? Select all that apply.
__ Alcoholic Beverages ...."
The weekly emails from Domaine offer wines directly imported by Domaine from Europe. In a March 25, 2015 post by Marc Lazar on the 2011 Maison Ilan thread, Mr. Lazar stated that Domaine imports a container from Hillebrand (in Beaune France) every 6 to 8 weeks. http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/vie ... 6#p1709696. However, none of the Lazar entitles hold a TTB import license or wholesaler license. The importation of wine without such a license is a Federal misdemeanor under 27 US Code Section 207. But the importation of any goods into US commerce by means of any false statement or false or fraudulent practice is a felony under 18 US Code Section 542. Wire and mail fraud might also apply. As noted above, Mr. Lazar first came to the Federal government's attention as a result of his involvement in selling Rudy Kurniawan's counterfeit wines and brokering Kurniawan's counterfeit wines through Acker, Merrall & Condit in 2011 and 2012. http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/vie ... 1#p1811501 Marc Lazar is currently a defendant in a civil lawsuit pending in New York State brought a UK purchaser (Hrothgar Investments) of $2.45 million of Rudy Kurniawan counterfeits that were purchased in the summer of 2011. http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/vie ... 7#p2020217
Obviously, I anticipate that there will likely be additional criminal charges filed against Mr. Lazar in the weeks to come and I suspect that many of Mr. Lazar's employees will find themselves under serious scrutiny from law enforcement agencies involved.