North Bay Business Journal

Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 12:08 pm

Napa wine executive accused of $900,000 fraud

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    NAPA — A 48-year-old executive at The Wine Tasting Network’s Napa office faces 23 federal counts of fraud and money-laundering related to about $900,000 WTN purportedly paid a bogus tax-compliance service.

    Chris Edwards

    Chris Edwards (source: U.S. Attorney’s Office)

    A two-month FBI investigation purportedly found that Chris Edwards between May 2010 and October 2012 set up Dufrane Compliance Trust, created fraudulent invoices for tax services never provided to WTN, then used his position as vice president and general manager of WTN’s Napa office to have the company, a subsidiary of 1-800-Flowers, generate 20 checks to Dufrane, according to the grand jury indictment.

    Mr. Edwards then is accused of depositing the money into an account he controlled and then using those funds for personal use, including the purchase of a 2008 BMW automobile.

    A grand jury approved the indictment May 30, but it was unsealed Monday when Mr. Edwards did not appear in court, according to court records.

    Mr. Edwards could face up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and restitution.

    The FBI is asking for anyone who knows where he is to call the San Francisco field office at 415-553-7400.

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