CHICAGO (CN) – Celebrated Chicago chef Charlie Trotter duped two wine collectors into buying a counterfeit bottle of French wine for more than $46,000, the couple claim in court.
Bekim “Benn” Frrokaj and Ilir Frrokaj sued CHT Corp. dba Charlie Trotter’s, and Charles Trotter, in Federal Court.
The Frrokajs, wine collectors from The Bronx, New York, claim the Chicago restaurant, now closed, and its chef-owner sold them “a counterfeit bottle of wine, which defendants had misrepresented as a 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) magnum.”
An expert and the chateau itself confirmed that the bottle was fake, the Frrokajs say in the complaint. They add that Charlie Trotter’s was “one of the finest restaurants in the world” before it closed in August 2012.
Benn Frrokaj claims that he contacted Charlie Trotter’s in June 2012.
“Benn informed the Charlie Trotter’s employee with whom he spoke that he wanted to add a DRC magnum to his family’s wine collection. Benn had learned about Charlie Trotter’s wine collection through the advertising on defendants’ website. The employee informed Benn that he should make a reservation and that he could discuss purchasing the DRC magnum over dinner,” according to the complaint.
It continues: “On June 15, 2012, Benn and Ilir went to Charlie Trotter’s. During dinner, Charlie Trotter and the sommelier explained the rarity and value of the DRC magnum to Benn and Ilir. Charlie Trotter and the sommelier also spoke about wines from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti estate and how those wines are some of the rarest and most valuable in the world. A Charlie Trotter’s employee negotiated the price – $46,227.40 – with Benn and Ilir. Based on defendants’ representation of the rarity and value of the DRC magnum, Benn and Ilir agreed to purchase it. Ben and Ilir paid Charlie Trotter’s $40,000 in cash and $6,227.40 by credit card for the DRC magnum.
“On June 17, 2012, defendants shipped the DRC magnum to Benn’s New York residence.
“Upon receiving the DRC magnum, Benn contacted his insurance carrier. He notified the carrier that he wanted to list the DRC magnum on his homeowners insurance. Benn’s carrier informed Benn that 1945 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti are often counterfeited and that Benn would need to authenticate the DRC magnum through an expert before it would provide coverage.
“On or about September, 2012, Benn retained Maureen Downey, DWS, CWE, FWS of Chai Consulting to authenticate the DRC magnum. Ms. Downey determined that the DRC magnum was counterfeit and valueless. Ms. Downey later visited the estate of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. During her visit, she showed her inspection report to Aubert de Villain, the co-owner of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Mr. de Vellain confirmed that Ms. Downey’s report was correct and that the DRC magnum was counterfeit because Domaine de la Romanee-Conti only produced small yields in 1945 and as a result did not produce any large-format magnum-size bottles in that vintage.”
The Frrokajs demand a refund for the wine, travel expenses, and the cost of hiring an expert. They also seek at least $30,000 in punitive damages for violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, breach of contract, and breach of implied warranty.
The complaint does not state whether they ever drank the wine.
They are represented by John Auchter with DiTommaso Lubin, of Oakbrook Terrace.
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