FBI Art Crime Team Investigation Leads to Counterfeit Wine Arrest

Posted on March 20, 2012


The FBI Art Crime Team investigated Rudy Kurniawan, a 35-year-old Los Angeles wine collector, for a year before the FBI arrested him for attempting to sell $1.3 million of counterfeit French Burgundy.

In 2008, Kurniawan allegedly consigned 84 bottles (approximately $600,000 worth) of fake wine that he claimed were from the Domaine Ponsot winery in France. One bottle he identified as a 1929 vintage but, according to the authorities, the winery did not begin making that specific wine until 1934. More inconsistencies arose when he claimed other bottles were produced by the Clos St. Denis vineyard of Domaine Ponsot from 1945 to 1971 and wine was not produced from that vineyard until 1982. When the Domaine Ponsot administrator inquired about the source of the allegedly counterfeit wines, Kurniawan claimed to have obtained the bottles from unidentified contacts in Asia.

In February in London, Kurniawan purportedly tried to auction off 78 bottles of Burgundy wine supposedly from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti with a selling price of $736,500. Suggestions were made that the wine was counterfeit and it was withdrawn from the auction. One person noted that his bottles only had four-digit serial numbers when they should have had five- or six- digit serial numbers. There were also inconsistencies concerning the foil around the corks and an accent mark that did not appear on bottles until decades later.

Kurniawan faces imprisonment of up to 20 years if convicted. You have to wonder how someone gets to the point of being a wine collector, with sufficient knowledge about the industry to be ambitious enough to perpetrate a $1+million fraud, but lacking the attention to detail that would allow for preventable oversights.

Read the full article on the LA Times: Wine collector accused of fraud, trying to sell fake French vintages.

Thanks to Kristina Bauer for her assistance with this post.