"Mr. Kurniawan's days of wine and wealth are over," said the Indian- American U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Preet Bharara in a statement, according to a report in Wall Street Journal.
The 35 year-old Rudy lived a life of luxury in LA for years despite a longstanding deportation order expelling him from the country, federal prosecutors reportedly said. He is charged in New York with repeatedly trying to sell indistinguishable counterfeits of vintage wines that could sell for thousands of dollars a bottle. He is also reported to have fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans to finance his extravagant lifestyle.
The criminal charges follow years of increasing suspicions about Kurniawan. Some of his wines were removed 5 years ago from a sale in 2007 after an auction house declared they were not genuine. The billionaire wine investor William Koch also sued Kurniawan in 2009, claiming that several bottles purchased from him were fakes. Kurniawan used to boast of his skill at sniffing out forgeries.
Kurniawan, who sold $35 million worth of wine in 2006 alone, was taken into custody in Los Angeles on mail and wire fraud charges filed in federal court in New York, according to the court papers. Prosecutors said they expected him to be transferred to New York soon.
The perfect crime, according to the investigators was caught simply because Kurniawan made some basic mistakes leading to his exposé as a counterfeiter. One of the bottles of Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy he attempted to sell at auction in 2008 for $14,000-18,000 was passed off as a 1929 vintage, even though the producer did not start estate bottling until 1934. Others were billed as having been bottled at a specific vineyard between 1945 and 1971, even though Domaine Ponsot said it didn't start using that vineyard until 1982.
Prosecutors said that batch of counterfeits was expected to sell for $600,000. When Domaine Ponsot investigated, Kurniawan reportedly claimed that he had purchased the bottles in Asia. The phone numbers he provided of the sellers, turned out to be fakes.
In 2006, the Los Angeles Times said Kurniawan’s deep pockets and taste for old wines had caused prices for rare wines to skyrocket. He had gained such a fine reputation that any auction he went to became a highly charged event.
For a related earlier report from Wine Spectator, visit