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Busted Wine Dealer Allegedly Made Millions Selling Counterfeit Bottles

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Photo by ol_vic via Shutterstock
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When it comes to Arcadia resident Rudy Kurniawan, his "days of wine and wealth are over," according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who announced charges against the allegedly fraudulent wine dealer in New York yesterday.

Kurniawan, 35, is accused of multiple criminal schemes in conjunction with his wine business over a five-year period. He was arrested Thursday morning in Los Angeles, where he is expected to be in court Friday afternoon.

A bit more about the suspect, from the FBI:

Kurniawan has long been a collector of fine and rare wines. He has sold millions of dollars of wines in recent years, including approximately $35 million worth in 2006 alone. Since that time, Kurniawan has also held himself out to be a wine expert who was particularly skilled at identifying and detecting counterfeit bottles of rare and expensive wine. In an interview, Kurniawan told a major publication that he could spot the tell-tale signs of counterfeit bottles of wine, such as counterfeit labels, corks that had been tampered with, and improper bottle markings.
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It could well be a case of "phony, know thyself." Bharara remarked:

"As alleged, Rudy Kurniawan held himself out to be a wine aficionado with a nose for a counterfeit bottle, but he was the counterfeit, pawning off prodigious quantities of fraudulent wine himself to unsuspecting auction houses and collectors. But his alleged scheme did not end there - he also secured millions in fraudulent loans to fund a high-end lifestyle. He will now have to answer for his alleged crimes.”

Kurniawan, an Indonesian national, was even the subject of a 2006 Los Angeles Times profile. That article "described him as a slight man with an 'unconscious self-confidence' and an outsized ability to influence worldwide prices for rare wines," notes the Times in their story about his arrest.

Specifically, for his attempts to sell phony wine and fraudulently obtain loans, Kurniawan is charged with three counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.