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The Man Who Spent $35MM Fighting A $400k Fake Wine Fraud

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 13, 2023 3:01 am

The Man Who Spent $35MM Fighting A $400k Fake Wine Fraud

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 13, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and America’s Cup winner Bill Koch doesn’t like being cheated. The latest episode for our “Rule of Law” series!

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Listen to Life as a Gringo on the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. This is Lee Habib and this is our American stories. This next story. Well, it's our Rule of Law series where we tell stories about what happens when the rule of law is present or absent in our lives. And Alex today brings us an unusual story from a guy named Bill Coke, an entrepreneur with thirteen hundred employees.

Here's Bill. You know, what I really like, if you look at a great painting, you can tell the love the artist did in creating it. And to me, that's precious. And that's what creates, in my opinion, great art. You know, it's the love for what the artist was doing. And then food, too, you know, with an outstanding chef.

You could taste that. Oh, my God, this tastes differently because he put a lot of love into it, which means you put a lot of energy and thought and everything else into it. And the same with a bricklayer. You know, he really loves his work. He takes a little extra care in doing it other than slapping it together. And the same thing with wine.

The great wine, she could really taste the love that the vintner had in making it. And so that, to me, is highly offensive when someone is faking it. Bill found out that four bottles that were sold to him as Thomas Jefferson's were fake.

And then he found out that more were, too. There's a huge code of silence because the faker doesn't want to know that he's faking. The middleman who's selling the wine doesn't really want to know if it's fake. In fact, there was one big auction house that was selling a lot of wine in New York in auctions. And they had to have this retailer deal with them to get through the laws. And the guy who owns the retail shop said, why are you selling a lot of fake wine in this auction? And the head in-house counsel versus the out-house counsel said, authenticity is an opinion. And we're not in the opinion business. We're in the business of making our margin.

So just ignore it. And then the guys who buy the fake wine, if they find out it's fake, they want to get rid of it and get their money back. So primarily they either dump it into the auction market or they give it to a charity to auction off. Or they find some sucker that will buy it. Some of the fake wines I bought were from charity auctions because the guy gave it to him and he got a tax deduction on it. And some others, Schmuck got them. Mainly me.

I got them. And so I just said, I'm out on a crusade. A legal crusade.

To shine a bright light on it. And I also, I guess because when I was younger I was taken advantage of by people when I was naive. And so I said, I just hate being cheated.

Hate it. One of the fakers actually offered to give Bill all of his money back and Bill said, no, we're going to court. That's right. Well, I ended up in one real long lawsuit, which we won hands down. And then after that, everybody wanted to settle with me. And there was one guy who said, well, I sold you these fake bottles. Would you give them back to me so I could give them back to the guy that sold them to me? And so I said, all right, I will. But then I engraved on the bottles, counterfeit, and gave it back to him.

I haven't heard from him since. One big faker sent me a fax saying, why are you worried about fake wine? Even Jesus turned water into wine.

And I was hoping I could get him into a court in the Bible Belt, but I couldn't. One guy had a huge collection of pre-World War II bottles of Petrus, which is one of the best wines in the world, and oversized bottles. And I bought a bottle of 1921 Petrus in a double magnum.

And I opened it up. God, that tasted like the cheapest wine I've ever had. And I looked at it, and there was an article about this wine, about how it was found and who found it, et cetera.

And it was rated 100 out of 100. That's why I bought this bottle. And what the guy did, the faker, by the name of Hardy Runestock, poured in 1957 wine into the bottle. And he made a fake label. We even found the place where he bought the bottle, and we found where he had the labels printed. And he poured in 1957 wine, put in some juice that made it taste old and smell old.

I said, what he did was put moose piss in it for me. And we took this bottle to Petrus, and they said they never made big bottles pre-1945. And this one guy who had this huge collection of huge bottles called me up and said, are all our bottles fake? And we said, yeah. How do you know?

Well, we went to Petrus, and they said they never made them. And they said, oh, my God. And then a month later, he called up and said, why don't you buy these bottles for me? And I said, why? They said, well, it's good evidence. I said, well, I don't need to pay you.

I'll just subpoena you. Unfortunately, Crusades turn out to be long and very expensive. Bill has spent $35 million going after the fakers over what was originally a $400,000 wine fraud. And some might say that's a crusade not worth it, spending 87 and a half times the cost. But for Bill Koch, it is. The crusade isn't about the wines. I mean, it's a little bit about the wines. But Bill could have bought new wines for far less. What it's really about to him is the rule of law. And Bill's pursuit of the rule of law ended up exposing an industry of tens of millions of fake wine. I try to say, well, it's bad business to cheat when you get caught.

And great job, as always, by Alex. And thanks to Bill Koch, a rule of law series, because let's face it, sometimes the cops can't get these people. And sometimes, let's face it, no one else can. Sometimes we, the citizens, have to go out and find these fakers.

But if we can't bring them to a court of law, if we can't have the rule of law, then we have nothing at all. Bill Koch's story, his crusade against fake wine, and again, and against fake everything, here on Our American Stories. How are you spending your weekend with friends and family or at the car dealership? Why lease a new car the old way? With Roto, lease your vehicle in three easy steps, all from our app. Shop real-time inventory and see the clear cost. That means the best price, personalized to you with no haggling. Then complete your lease right from your phone.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-13 04:29:53 / 2023-03-13 04:34:21 / 4

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