Ocean Fathoms, a California-based wine company, was forced to give up over 2,000 bottles of wine and other alcoholic beverages to the city government due to illegally fermenting their product in the ocean.
The firm was required to forfeit their stash to the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office as part of their plea agreement. According to the agreement, the Ocean Fathoms’ wine has to be disposed of. Local wastewater treatment plants were responsible for recycling the alcohol and the glass bottles.
In this situation, “two of the three founders pled guilty to three misdemeanor charges for illegally discharging material into U.S. waters, selling alcohol without a license, in addition to aiding and abetting investor fraud.”
The issue dates back to 2017 when Emanuele Azzaretto and Todd Hahn were accused of dumping crates of wine into the Santa Barbara coast.
Azzaretto and Hahn didn’t have the necessary permits before carrying out the action. They required paperwork from the California Coastal Commission or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was missing.
Scarcity plays an important role in the company’s decision to age the wine in the ocean.
Based on the Ocean Fathoms website: “A single bottle of rare and unique wine can engender unbroken dinner conversation even through the rise of the next morning sun. However, to most, scarcity is expensive; to the affluent it’s simply a part of “The Story.'”
The attorney’s office wrote: “The motive for engaging in this unlawful operation was financial, and the people’s complaint alleged that nearly every aspect of their business was conducted in violation of state or federal law.”
Even though the Food and Drug Administration declared that people should not be sipping on this wine, the business partners still continued to sell the wine for $500. People were paying a high price for a bottle of contaminated wine that had been submerged in the ocean.
It was a problematic sale since they were also missing the “federally approved labeling on the wine, an Alcoholic Beverage Control sales permit or business license, and were not paying the state of California sales tax.”
The firm also announced that it would be donating a part of the revenue to an environmental non-profit, but there was no proof of actually carrying through on that promise.
The partners were ordered to pay one of their investors back and are expected to adjust their business practices to comply with federal laws.
District Attorney John T. Savrnoch concluded: “This case involved individuals who operated with complete disregard for our consumer and environmental laws… The case highlights the importance of our office’s relationship with outside agencies and it demonstrates our commitment to holding companies and individuals accountable for violating all types of consumer and environmental laws.”