Rudy Kurniawan introduced himself at wine auctions as an independently wealthy 24-year-old who liked to collect vintage wine. He charmed everyone in the industry with his exotic background. He said his “very private” Chinese family lived in Indonesia. Collectors were impressed with his deep cellar. But the vintage wine that Kurniawan started selling to wealthy oenophiles were cheap basement blends. He made fake labels and sold the “vintage wine” through elite auctions houses.
Kurniawan bilked several collectors including 1992 America’s Cup winner Bill Koch out of tens of thousands of dollars. Kurniawan was building a mansion in Beverly Hills and driving a Lamborghini when he was finally arrested in 2012. He was indicted on several counts of fraud and is now serving a 10 year sentence in a California jail. Kurniawan is the focus of an episode of American Greed which airs Fridays at 10pm on CNBC.