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Wine Counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan's Sentencing Delayed Until Aug. 4

Judge will allow defense to question experts; Kurniawan settles lawsuit with Bill Koch

Peter Hellman
Posted: July 24, 2014

Even Rudy Kurniawan threw his hands up in the air in disbelief. Sitting in a Manhattan courthouse, the convicted wine counterfeiter had just learned that his sentencing has been delayed yet again, until Aug 4. Federal Judge Richard Berman postponed his ruling as attorneys for both the government and Kurniawan debate exactly how much fake wine the young Indonesian collector sold. Federal prosecutors allege the total is more than $30 million worth of bogus rare bottles, but Kurniawan's legal team has raised questions about some of the authentication experts.

Wine Spectator has also learned that billionaire collector Bill Koch agreed on July 23 to settle his lawsuit against Kurniawan, in exchange for $3 million. Kurniawan has also agreed, as part of the deal, to meet with representatives of Koch and detail his counterfeiting activities.

At today's hearing, Berman agreed to "go the extra mile" by scheduling a hearing on the morning of Aug. 4 at which defense lawyers can challenge Quest Software co-founder David Doyle's claim that he lost $15.1 million buying from Kurniawan. Defense lawyer Jerome Mooney protested that he has not been able to question an ink expert who opined that the labels on the wines were photocopies. At the August hearing, that expert is expected to testify. Doyle's loss, the largest reported by any of Kurniawan's victims, is important because government sentencing guidelines in a fraud case are partly determined by total losses.

A Manhattan jury found Kurniawan guilty last year of schemes to counterfeit wine and defraud a finance company. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on each count and possible fines. In filings preparing for sentencing, Kurniawan's defense team asked the court to sentence their client to time served—nearly 29 months—while federal prosecutors called for a term of 14 years, plus a financial judgment of $20.7 million. Upon his release from prison, Kurniawan is expected to face deportation to Indonesia.

On July 9, the judge sent a memo to the prosecution asking for more details on the damage Kurniawan inflicted. "The government is requested to furnish the court with a chart of all 'victims' in this case whether or not they are seeking restitution," Berman wrote. He asked for the names of all victims of Kurniawan's crimes, how they were victimized and how much money they lost.

The night before today's hearing, the Justice Department flew California-based wine authentication expert Maureen Downey of Chai Consulting to New York to hurriedly inspect one set of wines sold by Kurniawan tentatively valued at over $3 million. Her verdict: "Mr. Kurniawan made these counterfeit wines."

After Berman delayed the sentencing, Mooney told Wine Spectator that collector Bill Koch has agreed to settle his pending civil suit in Los Angeles against Kurniawan. Koch will be awarded $3 million and Kurniawan has agreed to meet with representatives of Koch to answer questions about his counterfeiting activities. A settlement could mean the end of Koch's extensive campaign to fight rare-wine counterfeiting. Where exactly Kurniawan will be meeting with Koch's representatives—in a federal prison or elsewhere—is a question that will remain unanswered for now.

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