US marshals have started selling off nearly 5,000 authenticated bottles of wine previously owned by fine wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan, including rare Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne.
There are 4,711 bottles featured in the Rudy Kurniawan wines auction. The first sale began on 24 November to 8 December and the second is scheduled for 1 December to 15 December, both on txauction.com.
US Marshals consulted Stephanie Reeves of Houston and a team including Bordeaux-based Michael Egan to help authenticate the wines in Kurniawan’s cellar.
Egan and others discovered that 392 of the bottles were counterfeit, with another 156 deemed not fit for sale.
Kurniawan is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for making and selling counterfeits of some of the world’s finest wines, plus fraudulently attempting to obtain a $3m loan. Also known as Dr Conti, Kurniawan ran the operation from his Los Angeles kitchen, which he shared with his mother.
‘It may sound ironic that we are selling wine that belonged to a convicted wine counterfeiter,’ said assistant programme manager Jason Martinez, of the US Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division.
‘But, we are duty-bound to recoup as much value from the sale of these authentic wines as possible to compensate those who were victims of his fraud.’
US marshalls added in a statement on txauction.com, ‘While there can be no guarantee with 100% certainty in any situation such as this, to the best of our knowledge, the wines we are selling are genuine.’
Net proceeds from the sales will be made available to the court and ultimately returned to the victims of Kurniawan’s large-scale wine fraud operation.
Wines on sale in the auction include rare bottles from the first few decades of the 20th Century, such as a bottle of Salon, Le Mesnil ‘Nature’, Champagne 1928 and nine bottles of J. Faiveley, Clos Vougeot 1947.
Kurniawan was convicted of fraud in federal court in 2013, but has continued to appeal against that conviction.
He was ordered to repay $28.4m to his victims, and is currently serving his sentence at Taft Correctional Institute in California.
Last month, US Marshals sold off three of Kurniawan’s cars at auction, including a Lamborghini Murciélago, a Range Rover and a Mercedes.
Decanter covered Kurniawan’s 2013 trial extensively, with daily updates from the courtroom. See Decanter’s timeline of Kurniawan coverage here.
(Extra reporting by Chris Mercer)