10 years in jail for Rudy Kurniawan

KurniawanAfter weeks of delay, convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan was finally sentenced to 10 years in jail yesterday.

The judge in the case - Richard Berman - was not swayed by defence attorneys' pleas that the 37-year-old should only serve the two-and-a-half years already spent in jail since his arrest, and said he wanted to send a strong message to others involved in wine fraud.

Sentencing hinged on the value of the wine that Kurniawan counterfeited and sold from the Los Angeles home he shared with his 66-year-old mother, and prosecutors were reportedly conducting test on samples even in the hours before sentencing was due to try to secure the longest custodial term possible.

He will be deported to his native Indonesia after serving his sentence, and has also been ordered to pay $28.4m in restitution to his seven victims on top of the $20m forfeit imposed last month, although his legal representation claims he has few assets left.

Prosecutor Stanley Okula described Kurniawan as a 'kingpin' amongst counterfeiters and dismissed suggestions by the defence that sentencing should be lenient because his victims were rich and materially unharmed by the fraud.

Kurniawan was convicted last December in the first federal prosecution for wine fraud brought by the US federal authorities, after a trial which heard he had faked bottles of rare and vintage Bordeaux and Burgundy wines at his home in Arcadia.

He blended lower-priced wines so that they would mimic the taste and character of expensive vintages, poured his creations into empty genuine bottles that he procured from various sources. He then created a finished product by sealing the bottles with corks and outfitting them with counterfeit wine labels he created.

Among the copycat wines produced by Kurniawan were a 1934 Romanee-Conti and magnum of 1947 Chateau Petrus.

Through his actions he caused losses close to $30m to victims, including billionaire William Koch who settled a separate civil lawsuit with the defendant in July.

Kurniawan also devised and carried out a scheme to fraudulently obtain a $3m loan from a financing company located in New York City that specialised in extending loans that are secured by valuable collectibles, such as art and wine.

Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where Kurniawan's trial and sentencing took place, said: "Now, Kurniawan will trade his life of luxury for time behind bars."

Defence lawyer Jerry Mooney has indicated that Kurniawan will appeal the sentence. He portrayed the defendant as a deeply insecure man who craved acceptance among the rich and famous circles he frequented.

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