Lawyers for convicted wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, who could be sentenced to 40 years in a U.S. prison, urged the federal judge to instead sentence their client to time served - 27 months. Kurniawan, 38, who has been unable to make bail all this time, has been in custody since his arrest on March 8, 2012.
The Indonesian-born Kurniawan, 38, who overstayed his U.S. visa, was convicted on fraud charges December for making and selling more than $1 million of fake fine wines that he had concocted in his Los Angeles kitchen.
He faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 29 on charges that include defrauding a financial institution to secure a $3 million loan.
His lawyer Jerry Mooney argues Kurniawan is too poor to pay more than a token fine of $12,500 and noted the federal government had already seized millions of dollars of his assets including the California home where his mother lives.
Mooney, using the prosecution’s figures, said Kurniawan spent more than $40 million on wine between 2004 and 2011.
He argued that the rarefied ranks of the rich who make up “The high end wine market... seems to recognize, even accept, that fraudulent wine is a part of its culture.”
Mooney argued Kurniawan, portrayed often as the youngest man in the room, learned from other collectors at tastings and auctions “that everybody expected there to be counterfeits. In fact, part of the contest was to see who could figure out what was real and what was fraudulent.”
Mooney suggested that if the fine-wine market were serious about combating fakes, it would insist on provenance in the same way as the fine art market does. That the auction houses have not done, that the collectors have not done so, means the market has chosen to accept fakes, he said.
“It is clear that there is no deterrence for the market and a greater prison sentence for Rudy beyond the time he has now served will not have any meaningful impact on those who engage in this trade,” he argued.
The prosecution is to submit their sentencing memorandum next week.