Rudy Kurniawan aka Dr. Conti: What happened to the counterfeit wine seller?

Rudy Kurniawan aka Dr. Conti: What happened to the counterfeit wine seller?

After a long and perhaps stressful day, all most of us want is to sip on some wine. Thanks to wine collectors like Rudy Kurniawan, we can enjoy hundreds, maybe thousands of different and rare wine flavors. Nonetheless, he doesn’t have the best rap sheet. He ranks among the best wine swindlers of all time due to his ability to sell untold millions in fake rare vintages. Was he ever caught? Where is he now? Join us as we explore the phenomenal story of this all-time fraudster.

Rudy Kurniawan
Wine collector Rudy Kurniawan wine tasting. Photo illustrates Pierre Henry Gagey's wines with some dating back to 1959. Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Rudy Kurniawan was once termed one of the world’s most prolific wine collectors. Sadly, he began scheming and, for a moment, managed to fool people with his vintage wines. As a result, he was arrested and has since gone under the grid. This article will explain what happened to him, his bio, and where he is today.

Rudy Kurniawan profile summary

  • Full name: Zhen Wang Huang
  • Famous as: Rudy Kurniawan
  • Nickname: Dr. Conti
  • Gender: Male
  • Date of birth: 10th October 1976
  • Place of birth: Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Zodiac sign: Libra
  • Rudy Kurniawan age: 44 years in 2021
  • Nationality: Indonesian
  • Profession: Wine collector
  • Criminal charge: Wine and mail fraud
  • Penalty: 10 years in federal prison
  • Served: 7 years
  • Criminal status: Jailed-2013, Released-2020
  • Current residence: Indonesia

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Rudy Kurniawan's biography

Rudy Kurniawan
Rudy Kurniawan is a renowned wine seller who was baptized the nickname Dr. Conti due to his love for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wine. Photo: @pienso_luego_es_tinto
Source: Instagram

Kurniawan has a gift and palate of rare finesse. He can easily distinguish various wine flavors, even if he were blindfolded. But besides being so good, he is a fraudster. Since reports of his wine scheme hit the airwaves, many questions have been asked about the man behind it.

Who was the wine con? Who is Rudy Kurniawan? You will find this question being asked even in different languages. For example, in Indonesian, it is phrased: Siapa Rudy Kurniawan? Rudy was an esteemed buyer and seller of rare wines during wine auctions in the early 2000s that would go for millions of dollars.

How old is Rudy Kurniawan?

Rudy Kurniawan aka Dr. Conti's biography
Rudy Kurniawan aka Dr. Conti was born Zhen Wang Huang in Indonesia who relocated to America with a student visa. Photo: @bookofliespodcast
Source: Instagram

The renowned personality was born on 10th October 1976 in Jakarta, Indonesia and is currently 44. He was born Zhen Wang Huang, but his Chinese dad allegedly decided to give him an Indonesian surname for autonomy purposes.

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Although he was born in Indonesia, Zhen has spent most of his time in America. He came to the US on a student visa and attended California State University. Unfortunately, Rudy Kurniawan’s parents were left back in Indonesia.

Rudy Kurniawan’s family

Zhen’s family gained wealth by operating a beer distributorship business in Indonesia. However, he is not the only one in their family to be under the keen eye of the law.

Law enforcers have also wanted his mother’s brothers Eddy Tansil and Hendra Rahardja after being linked to a fraud case where $800 million was stolen and never recovered. People believe Rudy Kurniawan and Eddy Tansil are brothers, but they are not. One of Rudy Kurniawan’s brother is in Indonesia and the other is in China.

Rudy Kurniawan’s wine interest

Rudy Kurniawan
Wine labels of wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan he used to push his lucrative scheme to sell fake vintage wine in New York and London. Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Rudy is a wine lover who used to buy and sell rare wines at auctions. But before that, he used to work part-time in a California golf pro shop. All this changed one time when having a family dinner in 1999 at San Francisco’s Wharf. He ordered Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon going for $300, and his wine interest peaked.

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He was at first interested in Californian wines, especially pinot noir. However, he soon developed a taste for Burgundy, which made him incredibly involved in auctions of some of the 20th century’s most outstanding wines.

He purchased so much Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, earning him the nickname Dr. Conti. Sometimes people refer to him as Dr Rudy Kurniawan or 'drg Rudy Kurniawan' in Indonesian.

He started his wine scheme from 2004 up to 2012 when he was caught. He would mix old wine with newer vintages and then sell them off as expensive wines. He is believed to have sold 12000 bottles at auction back in 2006. He seems to have gotten away with it due to his great palate, which practically all wine lovers agree he has.

Rudy Kurniawan arrest
FBI agent removes evidence from Rudy's home in Arcadia. Federal officials accused him of selling $1.3 million in counterfeit wines. Photo: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

He was arrested on the morning of 8th March in 2012 at his home in Arcadia, California. A search of Rudy Kurniawan’s house by agents revealed cheap Napa wines labelled as old vintages of Bordeaux.

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Rudy Kurniawan’s criminal charge was on mail and wire fraud counts. He was indicted the following day in New York. During his trial, billionaire William Koch, a wine investor, revealed how Dr. Conti had cheated him into getting 219 fake wine bottles at $2.1 million.

He is believed to have worked with other people, primarily his brothers, because he wired then $17 million. Nonetheless, prosecutors chose to concentrate on him.

He was sentenced to ten years in prison and ordered to pay $28.4 million in restitution to seven of his victims and forfeit $20 million in property. Luckily, he was released in 2020 after just serving seven years of his ten-year term.

Sour Grapes starring Rudy Kurniawan

Rudy Kurniawan's documentary
2016 Netflix documentary Sour Grapes directed by Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas retells Rudy Kurniawan’s wine scheme. Photo: @cinebingersa
Source: Instagram

A 2016 Netflix documentary directed by Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas retells Rudy Kurniawan’s wine scheme. Rudy Kurniawan’s Netflix documentary suggests that almost 10000 counterfeit wine bottles are in the market and still displayed in various private collections.

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Besides a Rudy Kurniawan’s movie or documentary, you may also have seen a Rudy Kurniawan’s book. Peter Hellman has written about his ordeal in his book In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire.

Where is Rudy Kurniawan today?

Rudy Kurniawan now
A sketch showing wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan before a judge. He was sentenced to ten years in prison but only served seven. Photo: aboutwineonline.magazine
Source: Instagram

Rudy Kurniawan now resides in Indonesia, which might explain searches of his whereabouts in Indonesian with phrases such as 'Rudy Kurniawan Sekarang.' After his release from prison, he was handed over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, awaiting deportation to Indonesia. He arrived a day after his release.

Rudy Kurniawan is the wine fraudster who managed to fool billionaire wine lovers about vintages. He would sell fake rare vintages and make a fortune out of it. He was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to ten years in jail, but he was released in 2020. He is currently in Indonesia following his deportation immediately after his release.

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Source: Briefly News

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