Former Napa wine executive indicted on fraud charges

Authorities say a former executive with Napa-based The Wine Tasting Network is a wanted man after he failed to show up in federal court Monday to face fraud and money laundering charges.

Federal prosecutors say Martin Christopher Edwards was charged Monday with 23 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in an alleged scheme where he created a fictitious trust to provide tax compliance services to The Wine Tasting Network, or WTN.

While working as the vice president and general manager of the company, prosecutors say between May of 2010 and October of 2012 Edwards directed WTN to make nearly $900,000 in payments to the trust.

Edwards then allegedly deposited these funds into his own account and used the money for his own personal use.

Prosecutors say the 48-year-old Edwards — who lived in Napa — was indicted on May 30. The indictment was unsealed on Monday.

If convicted, Edwards — who ran unsuccessfully for Napa City Council in 2003 and 2005 — could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on each count.

WTN, which is owned by gift and floral retailer 1-800-Flowers.com, bills itself as a distribution company for Northern California wineries.

Calls left at WTN and at 1-800-Flowers.com seeking comment about the case were not immediately returned.