Candy Firm Clerk Charged with Mail Fraud, Cashed Fradulent Checks

The former payroll clerk for a small Northeast Philadelphia candy company was charged yesterday with stealing $858,936 over 10 years to feed her gambling habit at Atlantic City casinos.

Michelle Y. Frazier, 39, who spent 14 years working for Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co., was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office with one count of mail fraud involving the theft, which occurred from 1992 to 2002.

Frazier's attorney, Ronald L. Greenblatt, said she would plead guilty.

"This is a real tragedy," Greenblatt said. "She gambled it all away."

Greenblatt said that Frazier "truly led a double life" and that neither her husband nor her two children knew about her gambling habit. He said Frazier lived on her salary and gambled only with company money she got by cashing bogus payroll checks that she created.

Court documents filed yesterday said that Frazier, a $35,000-a-year payroll clerk, created about 2,000 bogus payroll checks ranging from $200 to $500 for employees who were on vacation or leave.

Frazier cashed the bogus checks at a check-cashing agency 10 blocks from the company's business office at 21st Street and Washington Avenue in Southwest Center City, where she worked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ewald Zittlau said the scheme continued weekly until May 2002, when the check-cashing agency told Frazier it could no longer cash third-party checks for her.

When Frazier began cashing the phony paychecks at her own credit union, credit union officials contacted Frankford Candy, which began auditing its accounts. Frazier was confronted and fired in October 2002.