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California man accused of trying to sell fake wine

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(Reuters) - A California wine collector and dealer accused of trying to sell more than $1.3 million in counterfeit wine has been charged with fraud, a federal prosecutor said on Thursday.

Prosecutors charged Rudy Kurniawan, 35, with "multiple fraudulent schemes" relating to his wine business between 2007 and 2012, including attempting to sell fake wine and fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in loans.

The complaint was unsealed on Thursday in Manhattan federal court.

"Mr. Kurniawan's days of wine and wealth are over, if the allegations in this case are proven," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Rudy Kurniawan held himself out to be a wine aficionado with a nose for a counterfeit bottle, but he was the counterfeit."

The complaint alleged that in one scheme, Kurniawan consigned for auction at least 84 bottles of counterfeit wine purporting to be from Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy, France, which were expected to sell for about $600,000.

Kurniawan attempted to sell one bottle that he said was a 1929 bottle from Domaine Ponsot, but Domaine Ponsot did not begin estate bottling until 1934, the complaint said.

Kurniawan also consigned bottles of wine that had supposedly been bottled between 1945 and 1971 from the Clos. St. Denis vineyard of Domaine Ponsot, according to the complaint. But Domaine Ponsot did not make wine from that vineyard until 1982.

Kurniawan was arrested on Thursday in Los Angeles and charged with three counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, Kurniawan is living in the United States illegally, according to the complaint. He has sold millions of dollars' worth of wine in recent years, including about $35 million in 2006 alone, prosecutors said.


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