Counterfeit Wine

Most people think of counterfeits as involving fake Rolex watches and Louis Vuittan bags—but there is no limit to the number and kinds of consumer products that can be counterfeited, including wine. In what was a clever scheme, Rudy Kumiawan was ordered to pay $28.4 million in restitution to seven victims and forfeit an addition $20 million for selling fake wine in August, 2014.

Kumiawan, who was one of the world’s foremost wine collectors, knew many of the collectors who were in the market for rare and centuries-old wine. [To read a good article on rare vintage wines, see article by Patrick-Radden Keefe entitled “The Jefferson Bottles,” that appeared in The New Yorker in Sept. 3, 2007]

Mr. Kurniawan mixed the wines in his home kitchen and used fake labels. Because of his reputation as a wine collector, Kurniawan was able to swindle some of the country’s wealthiest people and leading wine enthusiasts.

One collector who was duped paid a quarter of a million dollars for a bottle of what Mr. Kumiawan palmed off as a rare wine.

Police raided Mr. Kurniawan’s home in Arcadia, Calif. His computer was seized and found to contain files with scanned images of rare wine labels. Many empty wine bottles were also seized.

 

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