Alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan has been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York on four counts and faces extradition to the East Coast state.
Kurniawan was formally accused by the jury of mail and wire fraud to sell counterfeit wine, defrauding a finance company, double pledging collateral, and scheming to defraud a California wine collector and a New York auction house.
The charges were filed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Kurniawan, 35, has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles since his arrest by the FBI on 8 March at his home, as reported on thedrinksbusiness.com.
According to a source in the US Department of Justice, Kurniawan will be imminently extradited to New York in a government plane by a federal marshal.
The indictment details how Kurniawan, an Indonesian national, allegedly “assisted in the creation of counterfeit wines” in a home laboratory.
It describes Kurniawan as a wizard at concocting fake wines by mixing and matching younger, less valuable wines “that mimicked the taste, colour and character of rare and expensive wines.”
The indictment alleges that during a search of his home, the FBI found evidence of numerous bottles being counterfeited, including a California Pinot Noir that Kurniawan had marked as “40’s/50’s DRC,” referring to Burgundy estate Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Agents also found thousands of counterfeit labels for wines dating as far back as 1899, including labels for all the Bordeaux first growths as well as Burgundies such as Domaine Ponsot.
The home operation was fitted out with hundreds of used corks, foil capsules and hardened wax which, when heated, could seal the mouths of bottles.
There were also hundreds of rubber stamps for vintage dates, ranging from Château Latour 1899 to Screaming Eagle 1992, and empty bottles of fine and rare wines ready to be filled and “recycled”.
Several shipments of empty bottles were mailed to Kurniawan at his request by a New York restaurant he frequented.
Two auctions play a major part in the case against Kurniawan. In April 2008, 22 lots of purported Domaine Ponsot wines were withdrawn at the insistence of proprietor Laurent Ponsot, from an Acker Merrall & Condit sale.
This February, 78 bottles of wine listed as DRC were withdrawn from a Spectrum auction in London. The indictment alleges the wines were fakes, consigned by a paid “straw man” for Kurniawan.
If Kurniawan were to be convicted on all charges, he could face up to 100 years in jail. More likely, according to sentencing guidelines, he would face 87 to 108 months.
Asked about his client’s state of mind, Kurniawan’s lawyer, Michael Proctor of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor said: “He’s strong, very strong.”