A 48-year-old Napa man has been indicted for fraud in federal court for stealing $900,000 from an online wine fulfillment company, according to federal prosecutors. He is now considered a fugitive, federal officials said.
Martin Christopher Edwards — known as Chris — was the former vice president and general manager of The Wine Tasting Network. He is suspected of creating a fictitious company to provide tax compliance services to the Wine Tasting Network.
Prosecutors allege Edwards, who ran unsuccessfully for Napa City Council in 2003 and 2005, created fraudulent invoices and directed The Wine Tasting Network to make payments totaling $900,000 between May 2010 and October 2012 to the fictitious company, Dufrane Compliance Trust, according to federal prosecutors.
Edwards allegedly deposited the funds into an account and withdrew the money for his own personal use, including the June 2012 purchase of a 2008 BMW, prosecutors said.
Edwards was indicted on May 30 in United States District Court after a two-month investigation. On Monday, he failed to appear in court in San Francisco and is considered a fugitive, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The May 30 complaint contains 23 counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, according to the filing unsealed Monday.
Edwards faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of mail and wire fraud and 10 years imprisonment for each count of money laundering.
Edwards also faces two fines of $250,000 or twice the gross gain stemming from the offenses, plus restitution, according to the federal officials.