He was “a nobody who became a somebody”. Actually, none of that is really true. In reality, we all have value and worth regardless of income level or social standing. However, in Sandy Jenkin’s mind having money (lots of it), cars that would turn anyone’s head and an opulent lifestyle was a guarantee that he would be noticed. He could then hold his head up high with the sense that his dreams had been fulfilled. At least that’s my short assessment from what I garnered from this month’s Texas Monthly Article entitled “Just Deserts” written by Katy Vine. It carried the tag line: “Sandy Jenkins was a shy, daydreaming accountant at the Collin Street Bakery, the world’s most famous fruitcake company. He was tired of feeling invisible, So he started stealing—and got a little carried away.”
In case you’re wondering, you may have read my reference to the story long before Texas Monthly highlighted the tale. Of course, my story wasn’t nearly as well written or informative, but at least I recognized it was a story worth sharing. Four months ago, I mentioned an employee from the Collin’s Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas that was sentenced for embezzling close to $17 Million dollars. My story was gleaned from what I could piece together from newspaper accounts. My summation was this: “So how does a man who earns $50,000 a year explain the ease at which he sometimes spent up to $250,000 a month? Wouldn’t the disconnect between affordability based on income and the list of things the FBI has currently seized from the couple seem to offer at least a subtle hint that there is, ‘Something rotten in the State of Denmark’.”
Texas Monthly had the resources and the opportunity to get the story-behind-the-story. In fact, references throughout the January article quotes folks in Corsicana who shared their opinions based on the guarantee they would remain anonymous. Some of the things that were shared reminded me of the movie “Bernie”, the true story of a mortician who murdered a wealthy 81-year-old widow, Marjorie “Marge” Nugent, in Carthage, Texas.
The on-the-street interviews of folks in Carthage who rendered their opinions added a sense of perspective one would never get from a newspaper account. The opinions and comments from folks in Corsiciana added flavor to “Just Desert”. For example:
- “His wife was a hoot and a holler,” said one woman in Corsicana. “He had zero personality.”
- “He seemed destined to be thought of as that ‘little ol’ bitty toothpicky’ man, as another resident put it, ‘with droopy eyes, a weak chin, and the personality of an aged basset hound’.
- “Some people observed that she ordered him around, not that Sandy seemed to mind—or anybody else, for that matter. If she was a little overbearing, that was a forgivable sin in Corsicana. ‘Honey, we’re all bossy,’ one woman explained. ‘She’s got a sarcastic sense of humor? We all do!’”
- “He was quiet, not one of the more popular guys in school…I hate to use the word ‘nerdy.’ He wasn’t an athlete or anything.”
- “ ‘Real Corsicana is old families,’ said Scott’s wife, Kathy. Another local said, ‘It’s real clique-y.’ And the judgments could be brutal. ‘Baby, if you get a hangnail, we know it before dark,’ said one woman. ‘We’re mean and gossipy here.’
I recently had lunch with a friend who mentioned January’s Texas Monthly article related to the embezzlement at the Collin’s Street Bakery. One of the things the article highlights is the folly associated to disposing of things stolen money can buy. Obviously, it is a problem, but Sandy Jenkin’s solution seems beyond belief. No doubt, the stress associated to finally realizing that consequences previously thought possible were now inevitable clouded his judgment. Never in a thousand years would most people think of hiding anything in Zilker Park in Austin.
According to Texas Monthly, “He raced home, grabbed two grocery bags from the kitchen, and ran from room to room tossing handfuls of valuables inside: watches, jewelry, gold bars—making sure to check the air vent where he’d stashed some of the jewels. Then he and Kay got in one of his cars and drove to Austin, where their daughter was living, and stored the bags in a safe before taking off to Santa Fe to regroup.”
At some point after returning, Jenkin’s noticed that an FBI team was in close pursuit. According to Texas Monthly, “He retrieved the stash and poured all the jewelry into an insulated Whole Foods bag, then he drove down to Lady Bird Lake, on the edge of downtown. With the bag in his hand, he walked to a secluded bend, hoping he wouldn’t be interrupted by some stroller-pushing, power-walking busybody, and he began scattering the treasure behind trees, bushes, rocks—the way one might hide eggs at Easter. It made him cringe to imagine a dog peeing on his $25,000 Patek Philippe Aquanaut watch, his $22,359 Ulysse Nardin watch, or any of the other watches and gold bars he’d grabbed on his way out the door in Corsicana. When he ran out of hiding places, he tossed the rest in the lake, resisting the urge to jump in, fish it out, and stuff it all back in the bag. He stayed focused. He picked up Kay and drove back to Corsicana, where, finding that the FBI had changed the locks on the house, Sandy broke in and tried to lie low”.
“Not long after, an off-duty police officer from the University of Texas stumbled across a quarter of a million dollars in gold bars and jewelry squirreled around Lady Bird Lake. Federal authorities quickly pieced it together, and the U.S. attorney’s office didn’t need to work very hard to convince a judge that Sandy Jenkins was a flight risk. A scuba team searched the lake, the FBI matched the serial numbers of the items to Sandy’s records, and on August 12, the FBI knocked on his door. He was eventually indicted on counts of mail fraud, money laundering, and other related offenses he’d perpetrated along the way”.
Can you imagine? If Jenkins had invested the funds, he’d at least had resources to pay it back with the benefit of interest and capital gains. As it is, the pipedream of being a self-perceived nobody who became a somebody has been short lived. He will always be remembered (at least by folks in Corsicana) as the man who embezzled $17 million.
All My Best!