U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of California
(415) 436-7200
September 3, 2014

Former Vice President of the Wine Tasting Network Sentenced to 33 Months in Embezzlement Case

SAN FRANCISCO—Martin Christopher Edwards was ordered to serve a 33 month prison sentence yesterday, and ordered to pay $894,222 in restitution to the WineTasting Network for his involvement in an embezzlement and tax evasion scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson, and IRS Special Agent in Charge Jose M. Martinez.

Edwards, 49, pleaded guilty on April 16, 2014, to a two-count information that charged him with mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, and tax evasion, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201.

According to the plea agreement, Edwards was the Vice President and General Manager of the WineTasting Network, when he created Dufrane Compliance Trust, a fictitious entity that purported to provide compliance services to wineries and wine retailers. Edwards directed the WineTasting Network to make payments to the Dufrane Compliance Trust totaling approximately $894,000. Edwards falsely represented to WineTasting Network employees that these payments were for tax compliance services rendered by Dufrane Compliance Trust, when, in fact, no such services were rendered. Edwards deposited those funds into an account that he controlled and then used the money for his own personal expenses, including the purchase of a BMW, vacations, meals, and a cruise. In addition, during tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012, Edwards did not declare any of the monies he diverted to the account he controlled on his federal income tax returns. The plea agreement also included an enhancement for obstruction of justice for Edwards’s flight to Mexico to avoid prosecution for these crimes.

The sentence was handed down by the Honorable William Alsup, United States District Judge in San Francisco. Judge Alsup also sentenced Edwards to a three-year term of supervised release. The defendant has been in custody since Jan. 20, 2014.

Kim A. Berger and Arvon Perteet are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rawaty Yim and Bridget Kilkenney. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.

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