Prosecutors asked a federal judge on Monday to sentence “the biggest and most successful wine counterfeiter in the world” to 14 years in prison, saying the effects of his crimes would be felt for decades.
Lawyers for the man, Rudy Kurniawan, 38, have sought a sentence of time served – or the 27 months he has been in jail since his arrest in Los Angeles on March 8, 2012.
Prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum that Kurniawan, who had first come to the United States seeking an education, but wound up overstaying his visa, had sold at least $20.73 million of fake wine to the some of the world’s richest men.
“For more than 10 years, Rudy Kurniawan produced, in assembly-line fashion, tens of millions of dollars of the finest and rarest wines in the world,” Asst. U.S. Attorneys Jason Hernandez and Joseph Facciponti wrote in their submission.
“The scheme made Kurniawan rich and he flaunted that wealth with extravagant purchases of authentic wine, luxury cars, a Beverly Hills mansion, flights on private jets, designer watches and clothing, fine art, and much more.
“Kurniawan says he made fake wines to fit in with the 0.1 percent, but it was Kurniawan’s lust for money and attention that truly drove him,” they said.
They also urged the judge to order Kurniawan make restitution for the $20.73m of fake wines that he sold to California restaurateur David Doyle, real estate mogul Michael Fascitelli and billionaire William Koch.
Koch, an American industrialist with an estimated worth of more than $4 billion, has made fighting wine fraud a crusade. Last year, he won $12m in punitive damages from entrepreneur Eric Greenberg, who had consigned fake Bordeaux for auction. A judge slashed that award to $711,000 in March.
In 2006, Koch sued Hardy Rodenstock over the so-called Thomas Jefferson bottles and a U.S. court later entered a default judgment against the German citizen, who refused to take part in the trial held in New York.
In the Kurniawan case, prosecutors also asked the judge to seize all of his assets and impose a fine of up to $175,000 on Kurniawan, who is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29.
And they reminded the judge that not only did Kurniawan dupe many victims out of millions of dollars, "the effects of this crime are likely to be felt for decades", as fake bottles of wine he made continue to circulate through wine auctions and direct sales.
If he had not been arrested he would have continued to pollute the wine-auction market with fakes. In addition to corks and labels – 46 of them for 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – FBI agents also found wine bottles with notes and formulas for the creation of fake wines.