Convicted wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan deserves up to 14 years behind bars for making and selling more than $20m-worth of fake fine wines so that he could 'live like a king', prosecutors have argued.
In their pre-sentencing statement filed today (12 May), state prosecutors called on the court to make an example of Kurniawan to ‘send a message’ that defrauding people, no matter how wealthy, will be severely punished.
They rubbished claims made by Kurniawan’s defence lawyers 10 days ago that the Indonesian-born wine fraudster merely fell in with the wrong crowd and that his 27 months in custody since his arrest constitute an adequate punishment.
Instead, they called for a prison sentence of between 11 and 14 years and for the court to seize any of Kurniawan’s remaining assets and redistribute them to his victims.
‘Kurniawan says he made fake wines to fit in with the 0.1%, but it was Kurniawan’s lust for money and attention that truly drove him,’ said prosecutors. ‘Kurniawan’s sentencing memorandum is chock full of wholly unconvincing and blame-shifting excuses,’ they said.
Last December, a 12-strong jury took only a couple of hours of deliberations to convict Kurniawan of faking rare vintages of top wine estates in his kitchen, in addition to fraudulently attempting to obtain a £3m loan. Investigators found recipes for fake wines and stacks of labels at the Los Angeles home that Kurniawan shared with his mother.
Kurniawan, known as ‘Dr Conti‘ in the trade for his love of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, enjoyed ‘living like a king’ and flashed his wealth by flying on private jets and driving luxury cars, prosecutors said this week.
They dismissed as irrelevant a personal letter from Kurniawan to the court, dated 25 April but not made public, in which he is reported to have apologised for his crimes. ‘Simply put, Kurniawan is not sorry for what he did, he is sorry that he was caught,’ prosecutors said.
Official government records show there is ‘no question’ that Kurniawan sold at least $20.7m of fake wines ‘that has not been returned for a refund’. But, Kurniawan did not keep coherent records and the true amount is likely to top $30m, prosecutors said.
A pre-sentencing report submitted by Kurniawan’s defence team says that their client is too poor to pay anything but a notional $12,500 fine and that the US government has already seized millions of dollars-worth of his assets.
Defence lawyers repeated their assertion that Kurniawan is an isolated individual who got caught up in a much bigger wine counterfeiting scene.
He is due to be sentenced on 29 May in the Southern District Court of New York.
Written by Chris Mercer