Collector who sold bogus wine gets 10-year term

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm •  Published: August 7, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — A collector convicted of making bogus vintage wine in his California kitchen and selling it for millions of dollars was sentenced Thursday to a decade in prison by a judge who said he wanted to send a message to others who might tamper with what people eat and drink.

"The public at large needs to know our food and drinks are safe ... and not some potentially unsafe homemade witch's brew," U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said as he announced the prison term for Rudy Kurniawan. He also ordered him to forfeit $20 million and pay $28.4 million in restitution.

Kurniawan, a 37-year-old Indonesian citizen of Chinese descent, lowered his head as the judge explained the sentence and described Kurniawan's quest as a "bold, grandiose, unscrupulous but destined-to-fail con."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stanley Okula described Kurniawan as the "kingpin of counterfeiters," a man who turned his Arcadia home into a laboratory where he poured wine into what appeared to be vintage bottles before attaching elegant fake labels and selling them for tens of millions of dollars.

"He did it to line his own pockets," Okula told Berman, who concluded that Kurniawan had caused losses close to $30 million, primarily to seven victims. One of them was William Koch, a billionaire yachtsman, entrepreneur and wine investor.

Koch testified at Kurniawan's December trial, when Kurniawan was convicted of mail and wire fraud.

Before he was sentenced, Kurniawan twice apologized, saying "I'm really sorry" and expressing a desire to take care of his mother, who lives in California after receiving asylum.

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