He was a glass-half-full kinda guy. But now he’s feeling the grapes of wrath.
Rudy Kurniawan had been secretly making and selling fake fine wine for eight years before those pesky old cops came along and told him to put a cork in it.
And no wonder – the fraudster was selling the fake wines on such a gargantuan scale that he has just been fined $20m in the US for the scam and ordered to pay another $28.4m to his victims – who include billionaire Bill Koch, the BBC reports.
Kurniawan has also received a jail sentence of 10 years, making him the first person ever to go to jail in the US for selling fake wine.
So how did he pull it off?
Kurniawan mixed genuine vintages with much cheaper wines then poured the dubious mixtures into old bottles with fake labels. No one knows exactly how many fake bottles he sold.
The BBC reports that he used to be highly regarded as a collector. But then he ran his scam from 2004 to 2012, using the proceeds to make “extravagant purchases of authentic wine, luxury cars, a Beverly Hills mansion, flights on private jets, designer watches and clothing, fine art and much more”, the BBC reports the prosecution saying.
So how can avid collectors protect themselves from such scams in the future? It’s all about traceable provenance, explains James Colacicchi of Bibendum Fine Wine.
“It is important to buy this level of wine through a trusted and established wine merchant who can ensure that all the wines they sell have perfect provenance,” Colacicchi explains.
Cheers to that.