Former wine collector gets 10 years in prison for fakes

Lawyers Jerome H. Mooney, left, and Vincent S. Verdiramo speak outside Federal Court after their client, Indonesian-born wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, August 7, 2014, in New York.
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An Indonesian man U.S. prosecutors called a "kingpin of counterfeit" for selling millions of dollars of fake French wine to the wealthy was sentenced to 10 years in jail in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.

Rudy Kurniawan used his refined palate and luxurious lifestyle to hoodwink some of the world's most discriminating oenophiles with his "bold, grandiose, unscrupulous but destined-to-fail con," U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said in imposing the sentence, along with $28.4 million in restitution to compensate seven unsuspecting buyers.

The sentence would serve as a deterrent to other counterfeiters, Berman said.

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"The public at large needs to know that our food and drink are safe and can trust what's on the label," he said, "and not some potentially unsafe, homemade witch's brew."

Kurniawan, 37, was convicted by a federal jury last December of one count of mail fraud for creating and selling counterfeit wines and one count of wire fraud for defrauding a financing company in connection with a $3 million loan.

Prosecutors were seeking a prison sentence of 12-14 years, while Kurniawan had requested time served. He has already spent 29 months in custody.

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At Thursday's hearing, Kurniawan told the judge he was sorry, and said he wanted to be able to take care of his mother, who is in poor health.

Berman said the victims lost $30 million as a result of the scheme. Most were wealthy collectors in the rarefied vintage wine world, where a bottle can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

Among them was billionaire industrialist William Koch, who testifed in the trial and who last month settled a civil suit against Kurniawan for $3 million.

— By Reuters