This week’s best crime stories

These are the types of stories I would read all day if I had time. Two fascinating crime pieces from this week.

Do quarter horses count as real horses? Never mind. Mexican drug cartels and horse racing.

The business was “so far out there it’s hard to believe,” said Morris Panner, a former prosecutor who handled drug cases. “Maybe they were using some kind of perverse logic that told them they could hide in plain sight, precisely because people wouldn’t believe it or question it.”

The Treviño brothers devised an elaborate scheme in which Mexican businessmen paid for the horses — some of them worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — from their own bank accounts so the purchases would appear legitimate, according to the affidavit. The Zetas would later reimburse the businessmen, and the horses’ ownership would be transferred to Tremor.The brothers’ activities on either side of the border made for a stark contrast. One week in May began with the authorities pointing fingers at Miguel Ángel Treviño for dumping the bodies of 49 people — without heads, hands or feet — in garbage bags along a busy highway in northern Mexico. The week concluded with José Treviño fielding four Tremor horses in a prestigious race at Los Alamitos Race Course, near Los Angeles.

Rudy Kurniawan’s counterfeiting of prestigious maybe have broken wine collecting forever. That he was able to pull it off for so long gives credence to the idea that most people can’t taste the difference between a $4 bottle of wine and a… say, $42,500 bottle of champagne. Alternate title for this story? The Talented Mr. Ripple.

On March 8 of this year, Kurniawan was arrested by F.B.I. agents at his home in Arcadia, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, and charged with multiple counts of wire and mail fraud, notably in connection with the attempted sale of the bogus Ponsots. According to court documents, when agents entered Kurniawan’s house, they discovered a counterfeiting factory, with scores of bottles being converted to knockoffs and thousands of fake labels for the most prestigious wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux. It appears now that Kurniawan may have sold millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit wines and scammed some of the world’s biggest collectors. It is potentially the largest case of wine fraud in history and may have left the market for rare and old wines irredeemably corrupted.

Also, this spoke to me, because basically, these people moved from comic book speculation to wine speculation… And you know what comic books are worth now.

In 2000, wine auctions worldwide grossed $92 million; by last year, that figure had quintupled, to $478 million. The buying frenzy was driven in large part by young collectors in the United States.

This week’s best crime stories