Hailing from New York, Celia Aniskovich hadn’t heard of Corsicana-based Collin Street Bakery, or the $17 million embezzlement scandal that threatened to ruin the famed purveyor of beloved seasonal fruitcakes.
The documentary filmmaker’s outside perspective helped shape Fruitcake Fraud, a revisiting of the massive corruption investigation that engulfed the bakery itself while also tearing at the fabric of the Navarro County city of about 25,000 residents.
“Small towns are protective. They care about each other and how they’re portrayed. I wanted to make sure that I treated them fairly,” Aniskovich said. “As we got there, it became clear that this wasn’t just Collin Street’s story. This was Corsicana’s story. It took on a life of its own.”
The documentary, which begins streaming on the Discovery+ online platform this week, chronicles a story well documented in these parts but little known elsewhere — how company controller Sandy Jenkins spent a decade siphoning company profits to fund a lavish lifestyle for Jenkins and his wife.
The primary question, of course, is how did it take so long before any realized that so much was missing? Jenkins’ scheme was discovered in 2013, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015, and he committed suicide behind bars in 2019.
“The money isn’t what upset them. What upset them was a sense of betrayal,” Aniskovich said. “When you trust people and consider people like family, you reason you don’t notice is because you never even fathom that someone would do something like that.”
Aniskovich spent a few weeks this summer in Corsicana, where the incident still resonates. She also talked with law enforcement officials at the FBI office in Dallas and elsewhere who investigated.
“I have the ultimate sweet tooth, so I was curious about this bakery I had never heard of,” she said. “They sell fruitcakes everywhere, but you go in, and the office hasn’t changed in decades. Entire families work there. They are a small-town business that has grown solely on their customer service. They give everyone a piece of love at the holidays.”
Corsicana has had plenty of recent true-life exposure on the big and small screens, from the 2018 drama Trial by Fire to the 2020 Netflix series “Cheer.”
And the Collin Street saga isn’t over yet, with a feature adaptation planned to begin filming soon. That project, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is being developed by Fort Worth’s Red Sanders, who also was an executive producer on Fruitcake Fraud.
“This could have happened in any town,” Aniskovich said. “It just happened there. It’s part of their story.”