Wine fraudster Kurniawan jailed for 10 years

Convicted wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, who cheated collectors out of millions of dollars selling fake vintages, has been jailed for 10 years.


After months of delays, Manhattan US District Judge Richard Berman finally passed down a sentence of 10 years today.

The Indonesian national was found guilty last December on multiple accounts of fraud for millions of dollars, and has been in jail since his arrest in 2012.

On Thursday, District Judge Berman sentenced the 37-year-old to 10 years in jail, ordered him to pay $28.4 million in restitution to his victims, and another $20 million as part of a forfeiture agreement.

An out of court settlement with billionaire wine collector Bill Koch, one of his victims, had previously been agreed, as reported by Bloomberg.

Up to 12,000 bottles of fake vintages are believed to have been manufactured by Kurniawan in 2006 alone, who sold them at auction using the collateral to secure a loan of $3 million.

Kurniawan would mix old wine with newer vintages in his kitchen before passing them off as more expensive wines.

In court Berman said Kurniawan had perpetrated “a bold, grandiose, unscrupulous, but destined to fail con”, adding: “We need to warn would-be counterfeiters that they will receive punishment and jail if they persist in committing fraud.

“The public at large needs to know that our food and drink are safe and can trust what’s on the label and not some potentially unsafe, homemade witches brew.”

The prosecution had been calling for a minimum of 14 years arguing that Kurniawan had duped many victims out of millions of dollars, and that the effects of his crimes were “likely to be felt for decades” with fake bottles continuing to exchange hands through wine auctions and collectors.

According to Bloomberg, prosecutors estimated losses by victims at more than $30.5 million.

Victims included Andrew Hobson, chief financial officer of Univision Communications Inc, who paid about $3.1 million to Kurniawan for wine, prosecutors said.

Another wine collector, David Doyle, co-founder of Quest Software Inc. who owns the Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney, reportedly paid $15.1 million for bottles from Kurniawan.

Kurniawan is the first person ever to go to jail for selling fake wine in the US.

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