According to New York Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, a man who allegedly operated a wine counterfeiting laboratory from his California residence between 2004 and 2012 has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Rudy Kurniawan apparently became a prominent and prolific U.S. dealer of rare and expensive wine that was actually lower-priced wine blended to mimic the taste and character of far better wines. He allegedly purchased empty bottles of rare and expensive wines—some of them from New York City restaurants—poured his mixtures into them, sealed the bottles, and then attached counterfeit labels that he created. The fakes were then sold to wealthy wine collectors through auctions and by direct sales. According to a news source, Kurniawan was eventually caught through misspellings and other packaging errors, including early 20th century dates on some bottles that pre-dated their actual production.
Kurniawan also allegedly fraudulently obtained a $3-million loan from a New York City financing company that specialized in securing loans with valuable collectibles, including art and wine. The U.S. attorney said, “Kurniawan obtained the loan by providing false information to, and concealing information from, the financing company, including falsely omitting approximately $7.4 million in outstanding loans, falsely representing his annual expenses, and falsely representing that he was a permanent resident of the United States when he had no legal immigration status in the United States and had, in fact, been ordered by an immigration court to leave the country years earlier.” The sentencing court also ordered the 37-year-old to forfeit $20 million and pay restitution of nearly $28.5 million. See U.S. Department of Justice Press Release and Courthouse News Service, August 7, 2014.