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Former Santa Barbara County winemaker arrested for embezzlement, tax evasion

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A former Santa Barbara County winemaker was arrested Thursday on charges of embezzlement and income tax evasion, the Santa Barbara Police Department said Friday.

Investigators said that 41-year-old Christian Garvin of Solvang was the winemaker and manager at Oreana Winery in downtown Santa Barbara from 2005 through 2013. He owned a ten percent stake in the business, but the primary owners were a couple from Los Angeles who became suspicious that the booking wasn't quite right.

"What was initially thought by the victims to be occasional discrepancies in inventory and record keeping over the course of several years, which they attributed to Garvin’s poor bookkeeping and forgetfulness, ultimately prompted them to conduct an audit," a release by the Santa Barbara Police Department stated Friday. "They subsequently discovered these discrepancies to be much more substantial than previously imagined, leading them to believe that Garvin had embezzled nearly $200,000 from the business. Shortly after this discovery Garvin left his position at Oreana Winery."

A multi-agency investigation found $1.2 million had been diverted to a personal bank account during his tenure at Oreana, money not claimed on his state taxes during those same years. 

Credit Santa Barbara Police Department
An investigation shows 41-year-old Christian Lucas Garvin of Solvang committed embezzlement and state income tax evasion during his time as winemaker and manager of Oreana Winery in downtown Santa Barbara.

Garvin was arrested while driving in on Highway 246 in Buellton. He was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $400,000.