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Accused Wine Counterfeiter May Plan Insanity Defense

Five magnums of Chateau Petrus 1976 Bordeaux. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg
Five magnums of Chateau Petrus 1976 Bordeaux. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Rudy Kurniawan, who is to be tried next month on charges of creating more than $1.3 million in counterfeit wines, may be planning an insanity defense, federal prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason Hernandez and Joseph Facciponti yesterday asked the judge overseeing the case to hold an immediate court conference on a defense request that he allow Kurniawan to be examined by two hired psychiatric experts.

“The defendant’s request suggests that he may seek to raise a defense of insanity or claim that he is not competent to stand trial,” the prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan.

Kurniawan’s lawyer, Vincent Verdiramo, asked in a letter yesterday that Berman order the federal lockup where his client is being held to permit the examination by S. Shane Konrad, M.D., and Virginia Barber-Rioja, Ph.D. The prosecutors said they are concerned the request is a “last-minute attempt to delay the trial,” scheduled for Dec. 9.

Verdiramo didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment on the request.

Kurniawan, a California wine-seller, was indicted last year for allegedly consigning at least 84 bottles of counterfeit Burgundy to a New York auction house. Prosecutors claim Kurniawan used his Arcadia, California, home as a laboratory for making phony wines, with thousands of printed labels for many of the world’s most expensive wines, including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Chateau Petrus.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Kurniawan, 12-cr-00376, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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