Former Vice President Of The WineTasting Network Pleads Guilty To Mail Fraud And Tax Evasion
SAN FRANCISCO – Martin Christopher Edwards of Napa, California, pleaded guilty yesterday to mail fraud and tax evasion, announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.
According to the plea agreement, while Edwards was the Vice President and General Manager of the WineTasting Network (“WTN”), he created Dufrane Compliance Trust, a fictitious entity that purported to provide compliance services to wineries and wine retailers. Edwards directed WTN to make payments to the Dufrane Compliance Trust totaling approximately $894,000. Edwards falsely represented to WTN employees that these payments were for tax compliance services rendered by Dufrane Compliance Trust, when, in fact, no such services were rendered. He 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 fraudulently obtained funds on his federal income tax returns.
The maximum statutory penalty for mail fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, is a prison term of 20 years, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, plus restitution. The maximum statutory penalty for tax evasion in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201, is a prison term of 5 years, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, plus restitution.
Edwards sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 5, 2014, before the Honorable William Alsup, United States District Court Judge in San Francisco.
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 IRS, Criminal Investigation Division.