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Napa wine executive accused of embezzling $900,000

A former senior executive from The Wine Tasting Network, a Napa wine company and a division of 1-800-Flowers.com, is wanted as a fugitive after failing to appear in federal court Monday on charges of fraud.

Martin Christopher "Chris" Edwards, 48, of Napa, is suspected of stealing $900,000 from the Napa company by submitting phony invoices, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Edwards, the former vice president and general manager of The Wine Tasting Network, was charged with 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in an indictment unsealed Monday.

A federal grand jury indicted Edwards on May 30 for allegedly creating a fictitious entity — Dufrane Compliance Trust — to provide tax compliance services. Prosecutors suspect Edwards created fraudulent invoices and directed Wine Tasting Network to pay around $900,000 to Dufrane, and then withdrew those funds to buy a BMW and other items for his personal use.

The FBI asked anyone with information about Edwards' whereabouts to call its San Francisco office at (415) 553-7400.


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