DULUTH – A Duluth accountant says he will pay back more than $355,000 he stole from two local businesses, including the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, after pleading guilty on Monday to two counts of felony theft by swindle.
Jesse D. Frye, 39, was charged with taking $235,000 from the chamber through his business, Eagle Accounting, from 2017 to 2019. The chamber’s annual revenue is $1.2 million, according to tax filings.
Frye was later charged with stealing an additional $120,000 from a second, unnamed local business.
Police said Frye was running a “criminal enterprise” and at the time of his arrest in January was “continuing to steal large sums from additional victims.”
Frye will make a “substantial payment” toward full restitution on his Nov. 9 sentencing date, St. Louis County prosecutor Jonathan Holets said. The crimes carry up to 20 years of prison time, but Frye will likely serve probation and be ordered to complete community service.
“He was fairly accepting of his responsibility, and that’s somewhat refreshing when someone does that,” Holets said. “We’ve got a good chance of getting money back to some victims, and that’s not always the case. I think it’s a good resolution for everybody involved.”
Chamber President David Ross thanked investigators and prosecutors for their work and said “the chamber’s leadership did everything in our power to address the concern.”
“Our comprehensive effort to have Jesse Frye dealt with according to the law resulted in, today, Jesse Frye publicly indicating his intent to fully reimburse the chamber for the financial loss we incurred due to his theft,” Ross said in a statement. “The chamber’s leadership is encouraged by his apparent desire to right the wrong he inflicted on the chamber. It appears Jesse Frye plans to address his wrongdoing in an honorable manner. For this, we are grateful.”