— Travel n Tour

“Sour Grapes” wine fraud con man deported to Indonesia

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A one-time California man who bilked wine collectors out of millions by selling cheaper booze he rebottled in his kitchen has been deported to his native Indonesia, U.S. immigration officials said Tuesday. Rudy Kurniawan, 44, was deported last week on a commercial flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Tangerang City, Bann, Indonesia, according to a statement from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

“He is a public safety threat because of his aggravated felony conviction,” the statement said.

Kurniawan came to the United States on a student visa in the 1990s. Authorities said he unsuccessfully sought political asylum and was voluntarily ordered to leave the country in 2003 but stayed on illegally.

Kurniawan, whose family gained wealth operating a beer distributorship in Indonesia, was convicted of mail and wire fraud in 2013 in a New York federal court and spent seven years in prison. He was deported after being released from jail into immigration custody last November.


In a public black eye for the wine industry, prosecutors at Kurniawan’s New York trial said he made millions of dollars from 2004 to 2012 by putting less-expensive Napa and Burgundy wines into counterfeit bottles at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia. The scheme was recounted in the 2016 Netflix documentary “Sour Grapes” and a March episode of ABC’s “The Con.”

Kurniawan‘s trial featured testimony from billionaire yachtsman, entrepreneur, and wine investor William Koch, who said he was conned and cheated by Kurniawan into paying $2.1 million for 219 fake bottles of wine. A wine expert testified that 19,000 counterfeit wine bottle labels representing 27 of the world’s best wines were collected from Kurniawan‘s property.

Kurniawan built a reputation as a buyer and seller of rare wines and netted tens of millions of dollars at wine auctions. Other collectors dubbed him “Dr. Conti” for his love of a Burgundy wine, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. An FBI raid on the home 2012 also turned up hundreds of bottles, corks, and stamps.

In one auction in 2006, Kurniawan sold $24.7 million of wine, a record for a single consignee.

However, the scheme began to unravel after several consignments he submitted for auction were fake. In 2007, Christie’s auction house in Los Angeles pulled a shipment of what was supposed to be magnums of 1982 Château Le Pin after the company said the bottles were fake.

In 2008, 22 lots of Domaine Ponsot wine valued at more than $600,000 were pulled from a sale amid questions about their authenticity. One bottle of Domaine Ponsot that Kurniawan attempted to sell at auction in 2008 was passed off as having been made in 1929, even though the winemaker didn’t begin estate bottling until 1934. Others were billed as bottled at a specific vineyard between 1945 and 1971, even though Domaine Ponsot said it didn’t start using that vineyard until 1982.

Prosecutors said Kurniawan also once consigned to an auction more magnums of a 1947 Château Lafleur than were produced. Kurniawan may have sold as many as 12,000 bottles of counterfeit wine, many of which may remain in collections. Prosecutors said money from the fraud funded a lavish lifestyle in suburban Los Angeles that included a Lamborghini and other luxury cars, designer clothing, and fine food and drinks. At his sentencing, Kurniawan was ordered to pay $28.4 million in restitution to seven victims and forfeit $20 million in property. The government seized his assets.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button