Well-known local winemaker, 41-year-old Christian Lucas Garvin, has been implicated in a major embezzlement scheme. The former manager of the Funk Zone’s popular Oreana Winery allegedly stole over $1 million from his fellow business partners and avoided paying taxes on the money.
After Santa Barbara police detectives spotted Garvin driving Thursday on Highway 246 in Buellton, they arrested him in a traffic stop. Police had issued a warrant for his arrest on October 13, after the Property Crimes Unit, the Franchise Tax Board, and the District Attorney’s Office concluded their joint investigation into the winemaker’s business records. That investigation supported Oreana Winery’s holding partners’ claims that Garvin had repeatedly embezzled from the business, and that he had taken much more than they originally expected.
Investigation into Garvin’s case began two years ago, after occasional discrepancies in the winery’s inventory and record keeping prompted his Los Angeles-based business partners to conduct an audit. Soon after, Garvin left his managing position at the winery. The owners contacted the police, saying they believed Garvin had embezzled approximately $200,000 from the business.
The case was subsequently assigned to Santa Barbara’s Property Crimes Detective Kristin Shamordola, who discovered that Garvin had opened a corporate account similarly named to the account legally linked to Oreana Winery. Between 2006 and 2013, Garvin used the account to divert over $1.2 million from the business to his personal accounts without raising any red flags.
The Franchise Tax Board investigation also revealed that Garvin filed false state income tax returns from 2008 to 2013, as he failed to report the embezzled funds as income. The DA’s Office oversaw both investigations, and is pressing charges against Garvin. He is currently being held at the Santa Barbara County Jail for embezzlement and tax fraud on bail set at $400,000.