The trial of wine collector/accused wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan — the man alleged with perpetuating "the biggest wine hoax in history" in selling over a million dollars worth of fake bottles — has come to an end. Today the jury found Kurniawan guilty of mail and wire fraud for selling fake bottles of wine and defrauding an insurance company, respectively. Wine Spectator reports that Kurniawan could face up to 40 years in federal prison when he is sentenced in April. Kurnaiwan is the first person in the US to ever be tried for selling fake wines, and is now also the first person to ever be convicted for it.
The guilty verdict is not entirely surprising. Through the course of the trial, top French winemakers Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's Aubert de Villaine, and Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier were all witnesses for the prosecution and a "wine detective" testified that labels and bottles belonging to Kurniawan were fakes. The prosecution also offered evidence like photos of a "wine factory" in Kurniawan's home.
The Wine blog Dr. Vino describes the defense's strategy as an attempt to portray Kurniawan "as a victim in a wine world awash in fakes." While there certainly are plenty of fake bottles circulating, that apparently wasn't enough to convince the jury, who deliberated less than two hours. Kurniawan's attorney tells the New York Daily News that they are planning to appeal the verdict, and will focus on the legality of the searches conducted in Kurniawan's home.
· Accused Wine Counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan Guilty in Landmark Case [Wine Spectator]
· "Prolific wine counterfeiter" Rudy Kurniawan found guilty [Dr. Vino]
· Wine fraudster who dressed up cheap vino and sold it at auctions is found guilty [NYDN]
· Alleged Wine Counterfeiter Stands Trial for Selling Millions in Fake Bottles [-E-]
· All Rudy Kurniawan Coverage on Eater [-E-]