Counterfeit wineAlleged Pinot Noir Expert Snared on Fraud and Other Charges

The U.S. Attorney and FBI recently announced a series of charges against a wine dealer for his alleged multi-million-dollar wine fraud and loan schemes.

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. But his alleged scheme did not end there - he also secured millions in fraudulent loans to fund a high-end lifestyle. He will now have to answer for his alleged crimes.

Kurniawan earned the nickname Dr. Conti because of his alleged knowledge and expertise regarding the wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the most exalted producer of Pinot Noir in Burgundy, France.

The accusations and details of his alleged crimes are extensive. It includes a statement, for example, that the defendant directed a Sommolier to send him empty bottles of rare or vintage wines for alleged photo shoots.

The U.S. Attorney said in the statement the defendant has made "millions of dollars of wines in recent years, including approximately $35 million worth in 2006 alone."

His mistake, then was getting caught, prosecutors said, when he tried to sell a bottle of 1929 Domaine Ponsot, "but that was not possible because Domaine Ponsot did not begin estate bottling until 1934."

Additionally, the statement said, "on a prominent wine-appreciation bulletin board, one individual detailed a series of concerns about the authenticity of the wine, noting, among other things, that some of the bottles included four digit serial numbers when genuine bottles would have had five- or six-digit serial numbers; that the foil around the cork was not like the foil that covered the corks of genuine bottles; and that the labels on bottles of wine purporting to be from 1959 to 1971 included an accent mark that did not appear on bottles until 1976."

The complaint also states that the color of the wax used to seal some of the bottles in question was the incorrect color, or had the incorrect label stamping.

Each of the five fraud counts is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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