March 9, 2012 — Wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan was arrested at his home in California Thursday morning on five charges of wire and mail fraud, according to Wine Spectator.com.
The charges from New York follow years of bidder suspicion surrounding the authenticity of wines the Indonesian-born Kurniawan has consigned for auction. Kurniawan could serve up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.
In 2008, 84 bottles of Domaine Ponsot Burgundy consigned by Kurniawan were removed from an Acker, Merrall and Condit auction at the request of the winemaker, according to an earlier story from Wine Spectator.com. Domaine Pensot Proprietor Laurent Ponsot told Wine Spectator that wines up for auction from vineyards Clos de la Roche and Clos St-Denis were labeled with vintages dated before production from those vineyards began.
The FBI also accused Kurniawan of “using a nominee to consign wines” in attempt to defraud bidders at a Spectrum auction last month, in which more than 100 bottles of wine were withdrawn due to questions surrounding authenticity.
"In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, '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.' The complaint alleges that for years Kurniawan financed an extravagant lifestyle by buying and selling millions of dollars of wine and borrowing cash from multiple sources without fully repaying. The complaint also reveals that Kurniawan has been living in the U.S. illegally since 2003, when an immigration court ordered his deportation."