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Duluth accountant faces additional theft charge

Court documents allege Jesse David Frye used stolen funds to pay for expenses such as a car and a new roof.

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An accountant accused of swindling more than $235,000 from the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce is facing another theft charge.

Authorities allege in newly filed court documents that Jesse David Frye stole more than $122,000 from an undisclosed business. A second felony charge of theft by swindle was filed Monday afternoon.

"In the course of the investigation, law enforcement discovered that (Frye) would withdraw money from victims' accounts, code them as payroll deposits to disguise them, and then deposit them into one or more of his accounts, then later converting them for his own use," the new complaint states.

The thefts allegedly occurred between June 14 and Dec. 27. According to the complaint, investigators were able to trace the money, in some instances, to "dollar-for-dollar purchases" of expensive items such as a car and a new roof on a residence.

The complaint states that the theft came to the attention of the Duluth Police Department in late December when the victim reported that he had been contacted by Frye's brother, also an accountant, who informed him of the missing funds. Police subsequently obtained search warrants for bank accounts belonging to both Frye and the victim.

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Frye, 39, owner of Eagle Accounting in downtown Duluth, was initially charged Dec. 23 with stealing from the Duluth Chamber.

According to a criminal complaint in that case, the theft was discovered in July during an outside audit of the Chamber's financial record. Chamber officials said they contacted the Duluth Police Department to investigate after a review of 2018 finances "identified discrepancies in the bookkeeping and payroll records completed by the Chamber’s bookkeeping and payroll contract service provider."

The review allegedly found that Frye had been withdrawing unauthorized funds and depositing them into his own accounts, often disguised with the label "payroll." The alleged theft ran from 2017 until summer 2019, according to that complaint.

"When confronted, (Frye) first offered implausible and incorrect excuses for the missing funds," the complaint stated. "Eventually, the defendant, via letter, acknowledged the thefts by offering a repayment schedule without 'outside action.'"

Chamber officials said in an update to members last week that they are "continuing to cooperate fully with prosecutors to ensure Jesse Frye is properly dealt with according to the law." That includes seeking restitution for the losses.

Prosecutors indicated in January that they were still investigating additional suspect thefts from other clients. It was unclear if further charges could be forthcoming.

Frye, who was released from jail after posting bond in early January, appeared briefly Tuesday in State District Court. His next appearance was scheduled for March 3.

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Jesse David Frye

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