Ex-wine exec pleads guilty to $1m fraud

A former Napa wine executive has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $1 million from an online wine network after he was apprehended by officers who had tracked him to Mexico.

Martin Christopher EdwardsMartin “Chris” Edwards is now facing 25 years in federal prison and fines after pleading guilty on Tuesday to allegations of fraud and tax evasion totalling $900,000 at a court in San Francisco, according to a report by the Napa Valley Register.

The 48-year-old was indicted in May 2013 but was only arrested in January 2014 when he was tracked down by officers having fled to Mexico.

Edwards was accused of embezzling $900,000 between May 2010 and October 2012 from his employer, The Wine Tasting Network, of which he was vice-president, and using the money to purchase a BMW and holidays, prosecutors alleged.

The scam involved Edwards making a series of payments to a fictitious company, Dufrane Compliance Trust, for fake services with the funds instead deposited into his own accounts.

In addition, Edwards did not declare any of the extra revenues on his federal tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Edwards remains in custody and is due to be sentenced on 15 August.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for mail fraud, and could also be sentenced up to five years and a fine of $250,000 for tax evasion.

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