Monday, 17 September 2012

Kurniawan lawyers seek to omit FBI evidence

Alleged wine fraudster Rudy Kurniawan’s defense lawyers have asked US federal district judge Richard Berman to omit evidence obtained in an FBI search of Kurniawan's LA home due to issues over the legality of the search. As reported on, Kurniawan is working to have evidence of an elaborate laboratory for counterfeit wines in his home excluded from his trial.

His lawyers are to contest the legality of an FBI search of his LA home after his arrest in a Los Angeles suburb in March. Kurniawan appeared at a brief hearing in a Manhattan federal courtroom last week wearing khaki prison clothing and midnight blue tennis shoes, the Wine Spectator reports.

At the hearing, Berman set a schedule for filings by the two sides, which will culminate on 14 November in the defense's expected motion to suppress the results of the FBI's search. During the search, agents found a home laboratory filled with thousands of fake labels dating back to 1899, including all the Bordeaux first growths and fine Burgundies such as Domaine Ponsot.

The operation was fitted out with hundreds of used corks, foil capsules and hardened wax which, when heated, could seal the mouths of bottles. There were also hundreds of rubber stamps for vintage dates, ranging from Château Latour 1899 to Screaming Eagle 1992, and stencils to imprint the names of famous wine estates on wooden cases.

According to a source close to the defense, FBI agents had an arrest warrant but not a search warrant when they entered Kurniawan’s home on 8 March. "It's one thing if you search a person, or a car, but a person's home is sacrosanct. If our motion is granted, and evidence is suppressed, it's a different case,” the source told the Wine Spectator.

"Our motion is being made to ensure that the Constitution is being honored in the letter and spirit in this case. Other than that, we will let our court papers do the talking,” Kurniawan's lead attorney Michael Proctor said of suppressing the search. Kurniawan is being held without bail at a Brooklyn federal detention facility.

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