Rudy Kurniwan, a convicted 38 year old wine fraud, will spend ten years in a federal prison for passing off lower quality wine as high quality vintages, selling them, and making millions of dollars.
Kurniwan, an Indonesian a national, was sentenced on mail fraud and other charges for his scheme to sell counterfeit wine to wealthy wine collectors.
Kurniwan was arrested on March 8, 2012 in Arcadia, California, where FBI agents found a “wine laboratory” in his home. The laboratory had several bottles of cheaper Napa Valley wines, as well as empty bottles that once contained rare vintages.
According to the federal indictment, Kurniam would mix different cheaper versions together until they tasted like the very expensive wines.
Kurniawan had a particularly refined palate when it came to wine. He was a well-known collector of rare vintages, and was particularly fond of a exclusive and renowed wines from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.i region of Burgandy. He was such an expert with the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. wines that he was well-known in wine circles as “Dr. Conti.”
He often sold his counterfeit wines at exclusive auctions and directly with wealthy clients. He usually sold his fake wines alongside legitimate bottles to cover his ruse.
Some of the other rare vintages Kurniwan faked were from the finest estates in the world, including, Chateau Lafite Rothschild; Chateau Latour; Chateau Margaux; as well as the renowned Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
Kurniwan came to the attention in 2007 after it was discovered he was selling wine that could not have been made on the date Kurniwan said. At that point, it wasn’t clear if Kurniwan was the counterfeiter or just the last one to be duped by the fake wine.
One of Kurniwan’s wealthy victims was billionaire conservative businessman, William Koch. Koch was a witness in prosecuting Kurniwan.
At his sentencing in New York, US District Judge Richard M. Berman ordered Kurniawan to forfeit $20 million and pay $28.4 million in restitution to his victims.
Kurniawan, who moved to the US at the age of 16, will be deported after completing his prison sentence.
Judge Berman said: “This was a very serious economic fraud, a manipulation of US and international markets.”