- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2014

A wine merchant in New York was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for leaving buyers with sour grapes.

Prosecutors said Rudy Kurniawan, 37, of California, scammed millions of dollars by selling counterfeit wine. They described him as running “what was, in effect, a counterfeit wine laboratory” where he would mix cheaper wines together in an attempt to imitate the taste of more expensive vintages.

“He then poured his creations into empty bottles of rare and expensive wines that he obtained from various sources and created a finished product by sealing the bottles with corks and outfitting the bottles with counterfeit wine labels he created,” said a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The scam worked for nearly eight years, with Kurniawan raking in millions of dollars. As part of his sentencing, he’s been ordered to pay restitution to his victims of almost $30 million, as well as forfeiting $20 million more.

“Rudy Kurniawan planned and executed an intricate counterfeit wine scheme,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Now, Kurniawan will trade his life of luxury for time behind bars.”

Kurniawan was also in the U.S. illegally, and Justice Department records showed he had been ordered to leave the country several years ago by an immigration court.

He was also found guilty of lying to obtain a $3 million loan from a bank that specializes in helping those with valuable collections such as art or high-end wine. Prosecutors said Kurniawan lied to the bank about his immigration status, his annual expenses and millions of dollars in outstanding loans he had.

This also wasn’t the best week for one of wine’s common companions: cheese. On Friday, the Justice Department filed a complaint in court to stop a Michigan cheese manufacturer after safety inspectors found the cheese was potentially contaminated by E. coli and other bacteria.

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