Wine Fraudster Heads to Prison for a Decade
MANHATTTAN (CN) - A wine counterfeiter who operated a laboratory out of his California home for nearly a decade will spend ten years in prison for swindling oenephiles of millions and snagging a fraudulent $3 million loan to do it, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
Rudy Kurniawan, 37, must also forfeit $20 million and pay more than $28.4 million in restitution to his victims.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Kurniawan "planned and executed an intricate counterfeit wine scheme, mixing cheaper, more common wines, bottling the mixture into old bottles with fake labels, and then fraudulently selling those bottles for millions of dollars."
"Now, Kurniawan will trade his life of luxury for time behind bars," Bharara added.
In 2012, authorities identified Kurniawan as "Dr. Conti" and "Mr. 47" in an indictment alleging frauds in the worlds of wine, art and finance.
"Between at least in or about 2004 up to and including in or about February 2012, Kurniawan rose to become one of the most prominent and prolific dealers in the United States of purportedly rare and expensive wine," the indictment stated. "Kurniawan gained stature as a wine collector, and otherwise ingratiated himself with wealthy wine collectors by, among other ways, providing collectors with tastings of his purportedly rare and expensive wines, holding himself out as a knowledgeable wine taster and evaluator, and flaunting his alleged expertise at detecting counterfeit bottles of rare and expensive wines."
Kurniawan ordered empty, rare wine bottles from New York City restaurants by Federal Express, to fill with his counterfeit creations, and sold the phony brands alongside genuine bottles of rare and vintage wines, prosecutors said.
While he fooled several auction houses, authorities said that his misspellings and other packaging errors did him in.
At an April 2008 auction, Kurniawan consigned "at least 97 bottles of wine purportedly from Domaine Ponsot, a highly acclaimed winery in Burgundy, France," but he got the dates wrong on several bottles, prosecutors said.
"Some of the bottles purportedly came from vineyards and vintages that pre-date Domaine Ponsot's production of that particular wine; and one of the bottles purported to have been bottled at Domaine Ponsot in 1929, but Domaine Ponsot did not begin bottling at Domaine Ponsot until 1934," the indictment states.
A month later, Kurniawan allegedly double-pledged 25 works of art, including ones by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, to another unspecified New York auction house as collateral.
Kurniawan's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.