Napa wine exec accused of embezzling £575k19th June, 2013 by Lucy Shaw
A former senior executive of Napa-based online wine retailer The Winetasting Network is wanted as a fugitive after failing to appear in a US federal court on charges of fraud.
Martin Christopher Edwards, known as “Chris”, is suspected of stealing £575,000 from the company by submitting fake invoices, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Edwards, the former vice president and general manager of The Winetasting Network, now known as WineTasting.com, was charged with 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
A federal grand jury indicted 48-year-old Edwards on 30 May after a two-month investigation for allegedly creating a fictitious company – Dufrane Compliance Trust – to provide tax compliance services.
According to federal prosecutors, Edwards created fraudulent invoices and directed the Winetasting Network to pay a total of £575k to Dufrane Compliance Trust between May 2010 and October 2012.
He then withdrew the funds to buy items for his personal use, including a BMW.
Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and fines of £320,000.
He may have chosen to name his fictitious company “Dufrane” after the protagonist in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, who escapes from prison after nearly two decades by tunneling through his cell wall with a rock hammer.