Federal prosecutors are acting against a wine seller who sold what buyers believed were rare and expensive wines, but were actually cheap wines that were blended to mimic the taste of rare wines.
According to prosecutors, the man, Rudy Kurniawan conducted these operations through a lab in his California home. The scam was a simple one which is why it’s so surprising to consumer fraud lawyers that he was able to get away with it for close to a decade.
Kurniawan established himself as a connoisseur of fine and expensive wines, and managed to gain access into the rarified world of wealthy wine collectors. He conducted tastings at his property, and guests were treated to samples of expensive vintages.
Unknown to the guests however, the wines were nothing but blends of cheaper, low-priced wines, which were modified in the lab to mimic the character and taste of expensive wines.
The modified wines were poured into empty, expensive bottles. The bottles were sealed, and slapped with a counterfeit wine label. The labels were either produced by Kurniawan, or created using stencils and rubber stamps. The bottles of fake wine were placed alongside the genuine bottles, to make it harder to detect the fake wines.
It was a simple scam, and surprisingly successful. The scam allegedly continued for more than a decade.
Kurniawan did slip a couple of times, and it was that which put federal agents on his trail. For example at an auction of wines in April 2008, he consigned 97 bottles of wine that were supposedly from an exclusive Burgundy winery. However, the labels on the bottles had the wrong dates.
Earlier this month, prosecutors charged him with fraud in wine, arts and finance.