Criminal Justice

After billionaire ex-client testifies, man who sold $20M in fake French wine gets 10 years


Many of the super-rich who collectively spent over $30 million on fake wine vintages sold to them by a single individual don’t want the publicity involved in admitting they were cheated.

But billionaire William Koch isn’t among them. An avid wine collector, he has spent millions in efforts to collect what is likely a fraction of that amount in civil damages from Rudy Kurniawan and at least one other seller of bogus bottles. And, when he got the chance, Koch didn’t hesitate to testify in a criminal trial against Kurniawan, who was convicted of mail and wire fraud in December by a federal jury in Manhattan.

On Thursday, Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors say he sold Koch and others more than $20 million in fake French wine vintages that he created in his home kitchen, and, as more victims came forward during the case, prosecutors now tally Kurniawan’s total take at over $30 million, reports Bloomberg.

At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman also required Kurniawan to forfeit millions of dollars in assets. The defendant’s lawyer, who says Kurniawan now has nothing left, had sought a lesser prison term to allow him to try to settle with those he has defrauded.

Koch had also pursued civil litigation against Kurniawan in California state court, which was settled last month. Bloomberg doesn’t report the settlement terms.

Part of his concern reportedly is cleaning up the top wine-selling industry rather than simply recouping his losses. Like fake art, bogus bottles are hard to eliminate and have a tendency to be resold, the article notes.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Elated billionaire wins $380K in federal suit over fake wine; he may have spent $10M in legal fees”

ABAJournal.com: “‘Rothko’ painting bought for $7.2M was a fake painted in a garage, purchaser says in lawsuit”

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