ARCADIA (CNS) – A purported wine expert who ran a fraudulent operation out of his home in Arcadia and who may have spurred a global surge in fine wine prices was convicted of fraud charges yesterday in New York.
Rudy Kurniawan is a onetime boy wonder of the wine world who once enjoyed an enthusiastic following in Los Angeles for his sophisticated palate and eye-popping collection of exquisite reds and whites, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Now Kurniawan, 37, faces 20 years in prison for using a laser printer, sealing wax, ink stamps, empty bottles and old corks to perpetuate his fraud from his Arcadia home.
Witnesses in his trial included wine authenticators, some of the world’s preeminent French wine producers and collectors of the most valuable vintages, including billionaire industrialist William I. Koch.
“I got conned,” Koch testified Friday, The Times reported in an article from New York. “I got cheated.” He paid $30,000 in 2005 for what was said to be a double magnum of 1947 Chateau Petrus from the Bordeaux region, a rare wine from a spectacular vintage.
Prosecutors said the bottle was counterfeit and a tiny portion of a massive fraud that played out in auction houses and wine cellars around the world from as early as 2004 until Kurniawan’s arrest in 2012, The Times reported.
In addition to doctoring bottles with fake labels to pass them off as prized vintages, Kurniawan diluted expensive wines with far cheaper ones and re- corked them to fool buyers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti said Tuesday.
Prosecutors said he sometimes sold counterfeit bottles alongside genuine rare wines to hide his fraud “so that he could dismiss as spoiled bottles or aberrations” any that were identified as fake.
Wine experts say Kurniawan’s fraud was about more than a few extraordinarily wealthy people being cheated, according to The Times. By acquiring huge amounts of fine wine at auction, he helped fuel competition that boosted prices across the board, they say. From 2002 until 2007, when Kurniawan was at the height of his buying and selling binge — he sold $35 million worth in 2006 alone — the value of fine wine sold worldwide went from $90 million to more than $300 million, wine expert Michel Egan testified.
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