Editors’ note: As we approach our fiftieth anniversary, in February 2023, we will, every week, highlight an important story from our past and offer some perspective on it.

Texas Monthly has a history of publishing oddball crime stories, such as “Family Man,” the tale of a suburban dad who stole safes with his down-and-out siblings, or “How Not to Rob a Bank,” about two bumbling thieves who make one obvious error after another. In the January 2016 issue of the magazine, a Corsicana accountant named Sandy Jenkins provided us with another doozy. Jenkins, a low-level employee at the city’s famed fruitcake company, the Collin Street Bakery, embezzled $17 million from 2004 to 2013, spending the money on cars, trips, watches, and jewelry—all so that he could keep up appearances with the upper crust of his town of 24,000.

When I began reporting “Just Desserts” in 2015, I never imagined that Jenkins would talk. But after he’d pleaded guilty that year and was sentenced to a decade in prison, his family and friends stopped communicating with him. He was confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville, and, whether out of boredom or a need to confess, he called me and introduced himself. I suppose he had little else to lose.

In the following weeks, over dozens of emails and a few follow-up calls, Jenkins answered detailed questions that helped me understand why he chose to risk his freedom and reputation so that he could cozy up to a few wealthier neighbors. “Suddenly,” he emailed me, “people were interested in me and what I had to say and how I could help their group.” Even after the story was published, Jenkins kept in touch with me for several more months. In the emails he continued to send, he wrote that he’d found notoriety with his fellow inmates, who read the issue and were impressed by his brazenness. As time wore on, he spoke of health problems. He wrote less and less frequently until, one day, the emails stopped. He died in prison in 2019.

The Collin Street Bakery owner, Bob McNutt, who had barely ever noticed Jenkins, let alone Jenkins’s crimes, handled the scandal and the ensuing questions with enviable grace. He was fond of saying, “You know, one of the real tragedies for Corsicana is we’ve lost arguably our most sophisticated watch collector in the history of Navarro County and also the most sophisticated collector of fine furs for men and women.” Now that the Collins Street Bakery is no longer hemorrhaging embezzled millions, the business is thriving once again, cranking out fruitcakes every year and shipping them around the world.