U.S. wine dealer's 'magic cellar' filled with lies: prosecutors

Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:18pm EST
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Indonesian man, once considered one of the top five wine collectors in the world, made millions of dollars selling counterfeit vintages to unsuspecting collectors, U.S. prosecutors told a jury on Monday.

Rudy Kurniawan, 37, operated what prosecutors called a "fake wine factory" out of his home in California, obtaining empty rare bottles, printing fake labels and spending thousands on traditional French wax to produce hundreds of counterfeit bottles he sold to finance an extravagant lifestyle.

"The magic cellar - that's where Rudy Kurniawan, the defendant, said he found the seemingly endless stash of rare wines he sold for years," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti told jurors in New York federal court at the end of a week-long trial.

"There was just one problem. There was no magic in the magic cellar. There were only lies," Facciponti said.

Among his purported victims was the billionaire industrialist William Koch, who has spent years pursuing those who sold him counterfeit wines and who testified last week for the prosecution. Koch is a brother to Charles and David Koch, who are well known for financing conservative political causes and the arts.

Kurniawan's defense lawyer, Jerome Mooney, said his client had unknowingly acquired counterfeit wines and was being made a scapegoat for a pervasive problem.

"In these wine markets, counterfeits are rampant," Mooney said in his closing argument, occasionally looking over at his client dressed in a now ill-fitting dark suit.

Kurniawan, the son of Chinese parents who raised him in Indonesia, became known for a delicate palate, seemingly able to identify even the rarest vintages by taste alone.   Continued...