A new documentary out Wednesday tells the story of the scandal that rocked the family-run Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, maker of fruitcakes shipped around the world.
Fruitcake Fraud streaming on Discovery Plus details an embezzlement scheme that went on for almost a decade. In that time, the bakery's bookkeeper stole nearly $17 million to support a lifestyle of luxury for him and his wife.
"This couple Sandy and Kay sought to be social, sought to be involved with the community and endeavored to do that," Hayden Crawford, Vice-President of Public Relations and Customer Service and partner at the bakery, said. "And, so it was a surprise to everybody when this came to light that actually these people were embezzling for years and years. So, all this will be brought to light in this show and people will see things that they had not seen or heard before."
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The documentary includes Bob McNutt, CEO and President, who tells viewers "what Dom Perignon is to champagne, Collin Street bakery is to fruitcakes."
The woman who discovered the crime, Semetric Walker, is interviewed. She had been on the job barely a year as an accounting clerk when she took her suspicions to higher ups. She's now the bakery's controller.
"This whole thing was unusual and under the cloak of darkness as they say, and it was all such a mystery," Crawford said. "We wanted to get out our side of the story. So we allowed them (the documentary team) to come in. They interviewed us at length. We gave them access to all the pictures and photographs we had and all the video we had. We let them roam around thep plant at large. And so, we gave them full access. And the hope was that when the story came out, people would see our side of the story that it was much more complex and much harder to be uncovered than people believed."
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A 2015 news release from the U.S. Attorney's office details the crime:
"According to documents filed in the case and evidence proffered at the sentencing hearing, beginning at least as early as December 2004, and continuing until his termination from the Bakery, Sandy Jenkins engaged in a massive scheme to defraud the Bakery. During that time, he embezzled more than $16 million from the Bakery, and he and his wife, Kay Jenkins, used that money to bank-roll a lavish lifestyle. The government introduced evidence at sentencing identifying the 223 trips on private jets as well as the locations (primarily Santa Fe, New Mexico; Aspen, Colorado; and Napa, California, among other places), with a total cost that exceeded $3.3 million.
The government also showed at sentencing that the Jenkins purchased 38 vehicles over the course of the scheme, including many Lexus automobiles, a Mercedes Benz, a Bentley, and a Porsche. According to evidence proffered at sentencing, Sandy Jenkins and Kay Jenkins purchased a new automobile every time they needed an oil change. The government further established at sentencing that the Jenkins spent over $11 million on a Black American Express card alone-roughly $98,000 per month over the course of the scheme-for a couple that had a legitimate income, through the Bakery, of approximately $50,000 per year. The evidence at sentencing also established that a significant portion of stolen funds (approximately $1.2 million) were spent at Neiman Marcus at Northpark in Dallas where Sandy Jenkins and Kay Jenkins had nicknames, "Fruitcake" and "Cupcake," respectively. The government further proffered evidence at sentencing that the Jenkins stopped shopping at Neiman Marcus when Neiman's ran out of things to sell them."
Sandy Jenkins was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison and died behind bars in 2019. His wife Kay was sentenced to five years' probation, ordereded to complete 100 hours of community service and to write an apology to the bakery.
"We don't like being reminded of that awful time, that lasted a decade but we love getting the chance of telling it from our point of view," Crawford said. "A lot of people, they like to think it would never happen to them, that they would not have been caught off guard like we were. And, I contend it will always happen that way. It's the trust that allows them to come in and embezzle."
Eight years after the crime came to light, Collin Street Bakery is still going strong. The business that ran its accounting department on trust, believing there was no need for safeguards has made changes.
"We've put into place all the accounting mechanisms that will safeguard you against this kind of thing in the future. We just never had a need to in the past and so, we weren't even cognizant that was an Achilles heel of ours," Crawford said.
Dallas law firm Haynes and Boone, LLP said on its website that Partner Nick Bunch, who previously worked for 11 years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Texas in Dallas, was the lead prosecutor of the case. Nick said the case offers some good lessons for businesses, particularly for smaller or midsized businesses that may not have sufficient checks and balances to quickly detect an embezzlement.
“Companies, for example, need to establish procedures to have multiple eyes on their bank accounts and to ensure that one person is not left with sole authority to cut checks,” Bunch said in a news release. “Companies need to periodically review their accounting practices and have a game plan in place to quickly report a fraud when detected – and to preserve assets.”
And 125 years after it started, the oldest, U.S.-based, mail-order fruitcake company and the home of the world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcake is as popular as ever. Although, supply chain issues will keep the bakery from producing the Apricot Pecan Cake this year.
"Apricots dried up," Crawford said. "We didn't get any for months and had to drop that product from our offering."
Even so, families around the world this holiday will still serve the fruitcakes baked true to the Old-World recipe brought to Corsicana from Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1896 by master baker Gus Weidmann.
"It's a better year this year than last year," Crawford said. "And last year with that weird pandemic, us being a mail order business, we saw growth during that pandemic. We actually saw more sales last year thanks to the mail order part of our business than we've seen in previous years. This year, we're about 10% over last year. so we're looking at great things happening for Collin Street. Fruit cake, kinda love or hate it as well, and we're seeing a lot love come our way with fruitcake right now."
Fruitcake Fraud premieres on Discovery Plus Wednesday, Dec. 1. Watch the trailer here.