Former Wine Tasting Network VP Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison in Embezzlement and Tax Scheme

A former vice president of the Wine Tasting Network was sentenced Tuesday to 33 months in prison for his involvement in an embezzlement and tax evasion scheme, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag announced Wednesday.

Martin Christopher Edwards, 49, was also ordered to pay $894,222 in restitution to the Wine Tasting Network.

Edwards pleaded guilty on April 16 to mail fraud and tax evasion.

Prosecutors said Edwards was the vice president and general manager of the Wine Tasting Network when he created Dufrane Compliance Trust, a fake company that claimed to provide compliance services to wineries and wine retailers.

Prosecutors said Edwards directed Wine Tasting Network employees to make approximately $894,000 in payments to Dufrane for services that were never rendered and then deposited the funds into an account and used the money for personal expenses including the purchase of a BMV, vacations, meals and a cruise.

Prosecutors also said Edwards did not declare any of the money on his federal income tax returns in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Edwards’ plea agreement also included an enhancement for obstruction of justice for a flight he took to Mexico to avoid prosecution.

Dennis Culver, Bay City News

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