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Napa embezzlement suspect found in Mexico

  • Martin Christopher 'Chris' Edwards (U.S. Attorney's Office)

Martin Christopher Edwards, the former Napa wine executive wanted on suspicion of embezzling $900,000 from his ex-employer, has been found in Mexico seven months after he disappeared from Wine Country, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

Edwards, 48, was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 30, 2013 and charged with 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He was scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco on June 17 but never showed up.

After FBI agents conducted a lengthy investigation, coordinated with Mexican immigration officials, they found Edwards near Hacienda Escondida Private Villas in Puerto Vallarta. 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 at the time, 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 is scheduled to appear in federal court in San Francisco on Jan. 22.

At the time that Edwards went missing, friends in Napa who knew him as “Chris” expressed surprise at news that he had been charged with embezzlement, saying they knew him as a friendly, thoughtful person who was involved in the community.

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