Napa wine executive who fled to Mexico pleads guilty to embezzlement charges

  • Martin Christopher Edwards (DMV)

The former Napa wine executive who fled the country after being charged with embezzlement pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud and tax evasion, said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

Martin Christopher Edwards, 48, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2013 and charged with 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He never showed up for a scheduled appearance in federal court.

In January, FBI agents found Edwards near a private villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was deported to the United States to face federal charges.

According to the indictment, Edwards created a fictitious business that claimed to provide tax compliance services to his employer, The Wine Tasting Network, a subsidiary of 1-800 Flowers.

As vice president and general manager at The Wine Tasting Network, Edwards directed the company to make payments totalling about $900,000 to his fictitious company, according to the indictment. Then he deposited that money into an account he controlled and spent it on personal items like a BMW, the indictment says.

Edwards did not declare any of this money on his federal income tax returns.

Edwards' sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 5. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the mail fraud and up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for tax evasion.

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