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Rudy Kurniawan

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Rudy Kurniawan
Zhen Wang Huang[1]

(1976-10-10) 10 October 1976 (age 47)
Jakarta, Indonesia[2]
Other names"Dr. Conti"
Criminal charge(s)Wire fraud, wine fraud, mail fraud[3]
Criminal penalty10 years in federal prison, deportation to Indonesia
Criminal statusReleased 6 November 2020, deported 8 April 2021

Rudy Kurniawan (born 10 October 1976) is an Indonesian convicted criminal and perpetrator of wine fraud.

He was found to be offering more magnums of the limited edition 1947 Château Lafleur than had been produced, and his Clos Saint-Denis Grand Cru was labelled with a fictitious vintage. Sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in 2013 in the United States, he was released in November 2020 and deported to Indonesia.

Early life and education[edit]

His birth name was Zhen Wang Huang, but his Chinese father reportedly gave him an Indonesian last name to help him maintain "autonomy".[4][5]

Kurniawan attended California State University, Northridge, in the late nineties,[4] arriving in the US on a student visa around 1998.[6]

Kurniawan unsuccessfully sought political asylum in the United States in 2001. After all of his appeals were exhausted in 2003, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement persuaded a court to order Kurniawan to submit to a voluntary deportation. He was directed to leave the country no later than April 25, 2003; instead, he elected to stay in the United States illegally.


Kurniawan's family reside in Indonesia. Hendra Rahardja and Eddy Tansil, his maternal uncles, also committed massive fraud and were sentenced to prison.[7]

Wine career[edit]

Kurniawan began buying and selling large amounts of rare wines in the early part of the 2000s,[8] spending as much as $1 million a month buying auction lots by 2006.[6][9] At the same time, he began hosting tastings of rare wines with other collectors; he showed so much affinity for the ultraluxury Burgundy producer, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, at these events that he became known as "Dr. Conti".[5] At this time, he was described as possessing "arguably the greatest cellar on Earth."[10]

Eventually, he wound up consigning lots with John Kapon in two major auctions at Acker, Merral & Condit in 2006, netting $10.6 million ($16 million in 2023 dollars)[11] in the first and $24.7 million ($37.3 million in 2023 dollars)[11] in the second.[3] The second auction was the record for a single sale of wine at auction,[12] beating the previous record by more than $10 million.[10] During the two auctions, Kurniawan offered for sale eight magnums of 1947 Château Lafleur.[13] A few days after the second sale, Kurniawan secured a loan for $8.84 million ($13.4 million in 2023 dollars)[11] from Acker Merrall & Condit, secured by the wine and art in his collection.[6]

In April 2007, Kurniawan consigned several magnums of 1982 Château Le Pin at Christie's in Los Angeles; the bottles were featured on the auction catalog's cover. Representatives from Château Le Pin contacted the auction house and indicated that the bottles were fake; Christie's withdrew the lot from auction after further review of the bottles.[14] At the 2007 TASTE3 food and wine conference held in Napa, California, David Molyneux-Berry, the former head of the wine department at Sotheby's, noted that only five magnums of the 1947 Lafleur were produced, indicating that Kurniawan's wines sold in 2006 were assuredly fakes.[13]

In 2008, Kurniawan consigned several bottles allegedly made by Domaine Ponsot from the Clos Saint-Denis Grand cru appellation, with vintages ranging from 1945 through 1971. According to Laurent Ponsot, head of Domaine Ponsot, the domaine had never made a Clos Saint-Denis prior to 1982. Ponsot contacted the auction house, and the lots were removed.[3][15] Ponsot later met with Kurniawan and was left wondering if Rudy was actually a counterfeiter or simply the last person to innocently handle counterfeited wine.[5] Kurniawan, when asked after the auction lots were withdrawn where the wine came from, said "we try our best to get it right, but it's Burgundy, and sometimes shit happens."[15]

After the Ponsot sale was called off, the origin of Kurniawan's wine was increasingly questioned. Bill Koch filed a lawsuit against him in 2009, alleging Kurniawan knowingly sold fake bottles to him and other collectors, both at auction and privately.[5][16][17] He also defaulted on a $10 million loan from the auction house Acker, Merrall & Condit, where he sold much of his wine, including the withdrawn Ponsot sale.[2][13][18] In February 2012, Spectrum Wine Auctions had to withdraw several lots of wine, worth an estimated $785,000,[19] from an auction in London when allegations emerged that they were consigned by Kurniawan through a second party.[2][14][20]


On the morning of 8 March 2012, the FBI arrested Kurniawan at his home in Arcadia, California.[21] When agents searched his house, they found inexpensive Napa wines with notes indicating they would be passed off as older vintages of Bordeaux, corks, stamps, labels, and other tools involved in counterfeiting wine.[5] He was indicted on several counts of mail fraud and wire fraud in New York on 9 March.[3] Later investigations indicated that Kurniawan was purchasing inexpensive, though old, Burgundy wines and re-labeling them with prestigious producer names and vintages.[5]


Kurniawan's indictment was updated on 8 April 2013, consolidating the fraud charges, and adding two new charges—one for selling a faked jeroboam of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945 in 2006 for $48,259 ($72,938 in 2023 dollars[11]) and one for selling six bottles of Domaine Georges Roumier Bonnes Mares 1923 at a 2006 auction for $95,000 ($143,582 in 2023 dollars).[11][22] Domaine Georges Roumier did not produce wine prior to 1924, according to lead prosecutor Jason Hernandez, ergo the 1923 bottles must be fakes.[23]

The initial court date for the criminal hearing was set for 9 September.[22] Due to the court date conflicting with the harvest period for wine grapes in the Northern hemisphere, on 6 May 2013, the judge decided to allow three witnesses (Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier, and Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot) to testify before trial on videotape, as they would be unavailable to appear in Manhattan at that time.[23]

Kurniawan's trial began on 9 December 2013,[24] and concluded on 18 December 2013, when the jury found him guilty. On August 7, 2014; he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.[25][26][27]


Kurniawan, Federal Bureau of Prisons #62470-112, was incarcerated at CI Reeves I & II Correctional Facility in Pecos, Texas. He was released on 7 November 2020. He was then handed over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation to Indonesia.[28] He had been living in the United States illegally since 2003,[29] and under the terms of his sentence he was to be deported upon his release. He was formally deported on April 8, 2021; he returned to Indonesia the next day.

Victims and aftermath[edit]

Victims of Kurniawan's fraud include Bill Koch, who sued Kurniawan in 2009 alleging he sold fake bottles at auction and in private sales—specifically, a 1947 Pétrus, a 1945 Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes and two bottles of 1934 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti that were sold at the first of Kurniawan's two auctions in 2006. Koch and Kurniawan settled out of court in July 2014 for $3 million in damages, and Kurniawan should be completely debriefed regarding his knowledge of counterfeiting in the wine industry.[30] Acker, Merrall, & Condit was still owed, as of February 2012, almost $3.5 million from their loans to Kurniawan.[2] In January 2015, the contents of Kurniawan's personal wine collection was examined for non-fake wines that could be sold to help repay his victims. The authentic wines in his collection were sold for $1.5 million.[31][32][33]


The 2016 documentary film Sour Grapes directed by Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas[34] retells the events in Kurniawan's wine fraud. The film states that as many as 10,000 counterfeit bottles created by Kurniawan may still be in private collections.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Atlas, Reuben (Director); Rothwell, Jerry (Director) (2016). Sour Grapes (Motion picture). U.K.: Met Film and Faites Un Voeu Production.
  2. ^ a b c d "Sealed Complaint in United States of America v. Rudy Kurniawan" (PDF). Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Wallace, Benjamin (13 May 2012). "Château Sucker". NY Magazine. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Corie (14 December 2006). "Wealthy wine collector creates class of his own". Lodi News Sentinel. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Steinberger, Michael (July 2012). "A Vintage Crime". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Hellman, Peter (30 June 2012). "Play Hard: Work Harder". Wine Spectator: 74. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  7. ^ "The great wine fraud". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike (13 June 2012). "Level One's Bill Todman Jr, Edward Milstein To Make Film About Wine Fraud Who Sold Bogus Bottles To Milstein". Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  9. ^ Brown, Corie (1 December 2006). "$75,000 a case? He's buying". LA Times. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  10. ^ a b Goldberg, Howard G. (24 October 2006). "Acker smashes auction record". Decanter. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved 29 February 2024.
  12. ^ Hellman, Peter. "Alleged Wine Counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan Indicted". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  13. ^ a b c IRELL & MANELLA LLP: Layn R. Phillips, Bruce A. Wessel, Melissa R. McCormick. "Koch v. Kurniawan: COMPLAINT FOR FRAUD, NEGLIGENT MISREPRESENTATION, AND VIOLATION OF CALIFORNIA UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW" (PDF). Retrieved 4 July 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ a b Steinberger, Mike. "The Return of Rudy Kurniawan?". Wine Diaraist. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  15. ^ a b Hellman, Peter. "Domaine Ponsot Proprietor Halts Sale of Fake Bottles". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  16. ^ Frank, Mitch; Hellman, Peter; Gaffney, Jacob. "Billionaire Sues Major Collector". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  17. ^ McCoy, Elin (2 July 2012). "Wine Sleuth Sniffs Out Fakes, Takes Hammer to Lafite". Business Week. Archived from the original on 5 July 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  18. ^ Hellman, Peter; Frank, Mitch (15 December 2009). "The Crusade Against Counterfeits". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  19. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (9 March 2012). "Influential L.A.-area wine collector accused of fraud". LA Times. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  20. ^ Hellman, Peter. "Bogus Burgundies?". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  21. ^ Hellman, Peter. "FBI Arrests Wine Collector Rudy Kurniawan". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  22. ^ a b Hellman, Peter (10 April 2013). "Rudy Kurniawan's Court Date Is Set". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  23. ^ a b Hellman, Peter (8 May 2013). "Top Burgundy Winemakers Will Testify Against Alleged Counterfeiter". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  24. ^ Hellman, Peter. "Prosecutors Reveal Evidence Against Accused Wine Counterfeiter". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  25. ^ Peter Hellman; Mitch Frank. "Accused Wine Counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan Guilty in Landmark Case". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  26. ^ "Rare Wine Dealer Sentenced in Counterfeiting Scheme".
  27. ^ Gardiner, Sean; Sharp, Sonja (7 August 2014). "Counterfeit Fine-Wine Dealer Sentenced to 10 Years". The Wall Street Journal.
  28. ^ Peter Hellman (14 November 2020). "Wine fraud Rudy Kurniawan's rise, fall, and plans for the future". New York Post.
  29. ^ "Rudy Kurniawan Bail letter". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  30. ^ Mercer, Chris (25 July 2014). "Kurniawan to 'tell all' in $3m settlement with billionaire Koch, as sentencing is delayed". Decanter.com. Decanter. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  31. ^ Mercer, Chris (17 December 2014). "Rudy Kurniawan's private cellar could help to repay victims". Decanter.
  32. ^ Shaw, Lucy (18 December 2014). "Kurniawan's wines will be sold to repay victims". thedrinksbusiness.com.
  33. ^ https://www.winespectator.com/articles/rudy-kurniawans-last-wine-auction-52507
  34. ^ "Documentary in 2016". The New Yorker.

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