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Wine Dealer Who Drove Up The Price Of Wine With Counterfeit Bottles Goes To Trial

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Arcadia resident Rudy Kurniawan, who became notorious for his wine dealing scandal, went to trial today on three counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. He is being accused of multiple criminal schemes in conjunction with his wine business over a five-year period, which caused quite an upset in the wine world.

Kurniawan faces 20 years in prison if convicted on charges he used a laser printer, sealing wax, ink stamps, empty bottles and old corks to perpetuate from his Arcadia home a fraud that wine experts say may have fueled a global surge in fine wine prices.

Says The Times:

Wine experts say Kurniawan's alleged fraud was about more than a few extraordinarily wealthy people being cheated. By acquiring huge amounts of fine wine at auction, he helped fuel competition that boosted prices across the board, they say. From 2002 until 2007, when Kurniawan was at the height of his buying and selling binge — he sold $35 million worth in 2006 alone — the value of fine wine sold worldwide went from $90 million to more than $300 million, wine expert Michael Egan testified. "Every single person who drinks wine was affected by this because it drove all prices up," said Maureen Downey, a sommelier and wine consultant in San Francisco who came to New York to watch the trial in federal court in Lower Manhattan. "When you raise the ceiling, you raise the floor.

Various industry professionals will testify in the case, including wine authenticators, French wine producers, and collectors of the most valuable vintages, including billionaire industrialist William I. Koch, who was conned in the scheme as well, buying a $30,000 in 2005 for what was said to be a double magnum of 1947 Chateau Petrus.
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The trial began today.