A Connecticut man admitted to pocketing more than $2 million in kickbacks after orchestrating a scheme to sell champagne and cognac at artificially inflated wholesale prices to a Hoboken-based liquor firm he worked at owned by rapper, actor and businessman Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
Mitchell Green, 44, of Westport, entered a guilty plea Sept. 18 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Farbiarz in Newark federal court on one count of wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a news release.
While working for the company between June 2017 and February 2020, Green secretly negotiated side agreements with two French distilleries to pay him kickbacks through his business, Q Branch Consulting LLC, for every bottle of champagne and cognac his employer purchased from the distilleries, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As a result, the Hoboken company shelled out $14.8 million for the champagne and cognac, with Green pocketing $2.19 million in what he billed as “agency fees,” authorities said.
Court documents did not identify the company by name, stating only that it was a Hoboken business owned by “an internationally recognized music artist, producer and entrepreneur”; however, several media outlets connected the case with 50 Cent’s six-year-old Sire Spirits based on legal actions taken against Green.
According to The Connecticut Post, Green filed for bankruptcy earlier this year following a 2022 U.S. District Court verdict awarding Sire Spirits $6.2 million in damages. The newspaper also reported that Sire Spirits is contesting Green’s appeal for a stay on paying any amounts while his bankruptcy case is ongoing.
Green, who was hired as “Employee #1” at Sire Spirits, went on to help launch two popular products with the company, Branson Cognac and Le Chemin du Roi champagne, which fetch $200 and $150 a bottle, respectively, according to The New York Post.
After “two years of embezzling from Sire Spirits,” Green came clean in February 2020 when someone discovered the scheme and began extorting him, the outlet reported. Ultimately, Green confessed, was fired from Sire Spirits and taken to arbitration, according to the report.
When Green returns to court for sentencing on Jan. 23, 2024, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, double the gross profits or double the gross loss incurred by the victims, authorities said.
A representative from Sire Spirits did not respond to a request for comment and Green could not be immediately reached.
In a statement, Sellinger said, “Though he was supposed to negotiate the best deal possible for his employer, Green set up secret side deals to inflate what his employer paid so that he could reap millions of dollars in kickbacks. Companies must be able to rely on the integrity of their agents to conduct business. When employees violate that trust and engage in fraud – like the defendant did here – this Office and our law enforcement partners are prepared to hold them accountable.”