Denver wine collector loses $1.7 million to crooked vendor, sues insurer

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Denver wine collector loses .7 million to crooked vendor, sues insurer insurance

A Denver wine collector who once ran the nation’s fourth largest HMO has sued an insurance company for failing to cover his losses after a California vendor took the collector’s payment for $1.7 million and instead of using it to buy wine, spent the money to hire female escorts, buy luxury cars and pay his daughter’s college tuition.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of Dr. Malik Hasan and his wife, Seeme, against AIG Property Casualty Co. of Pennsylvania by Denver attorney Glenn Merrick. 

The Hasans of Denver are seeking compensation for the $1.7 million for wine, attorney’s fees, court costs and two times the covered benefit, the lawsuit says.

AIG has not replied to a request for comment regarding the lawsuit.

Once called the Sam Walton of managed health care, Hasan created Health Systems International, the fourth largest HMO in the nation with 5 million members in 17 states. The company has a market value of more than $1 billion. He and his wife founded the Hasan Family Foundation and funded the Malik and Seeme Hasan School of Business at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

“M. Hasan is a judicious collector of fine wine,” the lawsuit says. “The wines purchased by M. Hasan from Premier Cru were selected with great care so as to build and enhance the Hasans’ highly valuable wine collection.”

Hasan bought fine wines on consignment through Premier Cru of Berkeley, Calif., from wineries around the world. He paid AIG $12,000 annually for property insurance on his collection, the lawsuit says.

But AIG denied the claim because Hasan never actually received the wine.

Premier Cru was founded by John Fox — a convicted crook who bilked thousands of wine customers out of millions of dollars by not filling orders for 4,500 clients from around the world, according to records in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

He sold wine in his store and online referred to as “pre-arrival wine” or “wine futures” by ordering wine from European wineries and delivering it to clients six months to two years later, the lawsuit says. But Fox wrote bogus purchase orders, falsified the wine company’s books and stopped filling most of the orders in 2010, the lawsuit says.

Hasan always bought cases of wine from Fox on consignment and that although deliveries were delayed they always occurred, his lawsuit says. The lawsuit says that according to California law when he paid for the wine, ownership title passed immediately to the buyer, even if the wine wasn’t scheduled for delivery for years.

Hasan claims that he paid for each bottle of wine with his credit card and the policy he had with AIG covered all the ongoing wine purchases along with Hasans’ art and jewelry collections. He had a $3 million blanket coverage policy, the lawsuit says. The policy covers his purchases regardless of where it is located anywhere in the world and immediately covered at the time of purchase, it says. The policy says, “rest assured that bottles shipped from your favorite vineyard or store are covered.”

Fox embezzled money from the wine business and used it to pay mortgage payments on his home in Alamo, Calif., his personal credit card bill and his membership fees for two private golf clubs. He also bought or leased expensive cars including Corvettes, Ferraris, a Maserati and various Mercedes-Benzes. Fox faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 14, according to court records.

When Hasan learned that Premier Cru declared bankruptcy, he hired an attorney at a cost of $50,000 and fought to get his wine. At the time, Premier Cru had an inventory of about 78,809 bottles of fine wine.

Hasan filed a claim with AIG for reimbursement for the cost of 2,448 missing bottles of wine.