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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

Friday, January 17, 2014

Alleged Fraudster Apprehended In Puerto Vallarta

SAN FRANCISCO – Martin Christopher Edwards of Napa, Calif., was apprehended on January 15, 2014, in Mexico and deported to the United States to face federal charges, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.

FBI agents in the United States and Guadalajara, Mexico, coordinated with Mexican Immigration Officials to locate Edwards in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Edwards was found near the Hacienda Escondida Private Villas.

Edwards, 48, was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 30, 2013. The Indictment charged Edwards with twenty-three counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Edwards was scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on June 17, 2013; however, he had failed to appear. Federal agents later learned that Edwards had absconded to Mexico.

According to the Indictment, Edwards allegedly created a fictitious entity, Dufrane Compliance Trust, that purported to provide tax compliance services to his former employer, The Wine Tasting Network, a 1-800 Flowers’ subsidiary. In his role as Vice President and General Manager, Edwards allegedly directed the Wine Tasting Network to make multiple payments to Dufrane Compliance Trust between May 2010 and approximately October 2012, totaling approximately $900,000. Edwards allegedly deposited these funds into an account he controlled and withdrew them for his own personal use, including the purchase of a BMW which has since been seized by law enforcement authorities.

Edwards is currently in custody and is scheduled to appear in district court on January 22, 2014, before the Honorable William H. Alsup, United States District Court Judge in San Francisco.

The maximum statutory penalty for each count of mail fraud and wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 1343, respectively, is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, plus restitution. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957, is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, plus restitution. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Katherine B. Dowling and Arvon Perteet are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rawaty Yim. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of State, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Martin Christopher Edwards must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

(Edwards Indictment)

Updated August 17, 2015