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Americas

US wine dealer convicted over kitchen-bottled fakes

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-12-19

An Indonesian wine dealer based in Los Angeles who made millions selling "rare" counterfeit French wines to wealthy collectors was convicted of fraud in a New York court on Wednesday.

Rudy Kurniawan, 37, who became one of the world's most renowned rare wine dealers by peddling fake French vintages bottled in his kitchen to wealthy collectors, was convicted of mail and wire fraud for selling more than $1.3 million worth of counterfeit goods.

Kurniawan remained stoic but tense during the ruling, which was rendered by a Manhattan jury after less than two hours of deliberation.

“We were expecting a quick verdict,” Kurniawan's lead attorney, Jerome Mooney, told FRANCE 24.

Kurniawan was arrested in March 2012 at his home in Los Angeles, where FBI agents discovered masses of corks, stamps, bottles and a supply of inexpensive wine.

Prosecutor Joseph Facciponti described Kurniawan as “a prolific wine counterfeiter who in his home in California assembled everything he needed”.

He said Kurniawan spent money made from “his magic show” on luxury cars and designer clothes.

Kurniawan had been living in the US for over a decade at the time of his arrest. He left Indonesia because his Chinese family, which gained wealth distributing beer in Jakarta, allegedly suffered from “religious and ethnic” discrimination, according to Mooney, who described Kurniawan as a “hoarder” who only wanted to impress those in the exclusive circles that sought out his fine palate.

Mooney said his client was "disappointed" by the jury's decision and would appeal the verdict.

US District Judge Richard Berman has set sentencing for April 24.

Date created : 2013-12-18

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