Meet the First Convicted Counterfeiter of ... Wine

Rudy Kurniawan faces up to 40 years in prison on fraud charges
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2013 6:52 PM CST
Meet the First Convicted Counterfeiter of ... Wine

Rudy Kurniawan wanted to be a big name in the world of wine, and on Wednesday he achieved that dream: He became the first person ever convicted in the US of concocting and selling counterfeit wine, reports Wine Spectator. The 37-year-old native of Indonesia duped scores of millionaires—including Bill Koch, brother of the political Koch brothers—and other wine aficionados over the years until his scheme unraveled. He now faces up to 40 years in prison on fraud convictions, including one for using his fake wine as collateral to get a $3 million loan, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Kurniawan, who has lived in Los Angeles for several years, knew his stuff. He didn't pour two-buck-chuck into fancy bottles and try to pass it off. Instead, prosecutors say he blended young wines with older French vintages to produce wines sophisticated enough to pass for some of the rarest known to collectors, explains NPR. His big stumble came in 2008, when renowned French winemaker Laurent Ponsot spotted, up for auction, counterfeit bottles created by Kurniawan that had supposedly come from Ponsot's own vineyard. The bottles were from the years 1945 and 1949, except "it is an appellation we started in 1982," Ponsot explained to the jury, per the AFP. "I feel no pity for him," said Ponsot after the verdict in Manhattan. "It's good justice." (Click for the story of an elaborate wine heist that fell apart.)

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