Feds investigate counterfeit wine

March 8, 2007 at 3:42 PM
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NEW YORK, March 8 (UPI) -- U.S. investigators in New York are investigating accusations of fraud in high-end wine sales at auction houses and private collections.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation say FBI agents have collected data on wine sales in New York and have issued subpoenas to major auction houses, including Christie's, where German music publisher and wine merchant Hardy Rodenstock sold a consignment of wine that he claimed once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Wine collector William Koch is suing Rodenstock after he concluded that four bottles he bought at the auction house could not have been Jefferson's.

"We have been cooperating with officials and will continue to do so," Christie's said in a statement.

The FBI investigation is focusing on determining whether auction houses including Christie's and local wine auctioneer Zachy's are knowingly selling counterfeit product, the New York Post reported Thursday.

Tim Kopec, the wine director of New York restaurant Veritas, said fraudulent labeling has become widespread in the high-end market.

"It's a major concern over the last 10 years easily," he said, "and more people with large amounts of money who come into the wine world are fueling the issue."

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