Chapman Custom Signs owners accused of withdrawing money from deceased mother’s account

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — Business owner Kim Yost Fraley has been accused of withdrawing large sums of money from the account of her now-deceased mother-in-law, and her husband, William “Bill” Fraley, is accused of knowing about the alleged crimes, according to court documents.

The couple, who own Chapman Custom Signs Inc., are named as defendants in a civil lawsuit filed in September by Bill Fraley’s sister, Cynthia Miller. The suit also names Thrivent Investment Management, where the accounts were held, and Eric Brady, who was Kim Fraley’s boss at the financial institution at the time when withdrawals were alleged to have occurred.

Kim Fraley was arrested May 23 in Brunswick County for three counts of felony obtaining property by false pretenses and three counts of exploitation of an older adult. The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office served the arrest warrants for Rowan County. According to an indictment filed by the NC State Bureau of Investigation on May 18 in Rowan County, Kim Fraley “made withdrawals from Thrivent Financial account (number redacted) by forging the signature of Edith Fraley and did so while Edith Fraley lacked the capacity to consent to such withdrawals.”

Miller and her brother Robert Fraley are listed as powers of attorney for Edith Fraley before her November death and over her estate upon her death. Edith Fraley was 86 and widowed.

Before her death, Edith Fraley appointed her husband, Dwight B. Fraley, as a durable power of attorney and two of her three children, Miller and Bill Fraley, as attorneys-in-fact, meaning they were authorized to make decisions on her behalf. A durable power of attorney essentially means that person can help plan for medical emergencies and declines in mental functioning and can ensure that the person’s finances are taken care of.

Dwight Fraley died in April 2012 and, upon his passing, Edith Fraley received $210,728.19 in stock proceeds and life insurance benefits.

According to the lawsuit, Kim Fraley at the time was employed as an office professional by Brady, a registered financial consultant for Thrivent.

The lawsuit alleges that upon the advice and insistence of Bill Fraley and/or Kim Fraley, Edith Fraley deposited the $210,728.49 in stock proceeds and life insurance benefits into two Thrivent annuities in her name — one with $86,000 on July 23, 2012 and the other $124,728.19 on Oct. 4, 2012.

The lawsuit says at the time of those deposits Fraley had another established annuity in her name with Thrivent with a balance of $14,000. The three Thrivent accounts had a combined balance of $235,000.

Edith Fraley also had an F&M Bank checking account at the same time. Her monthly social security payments of $2,000 and life insurance installment payments from her husband, Dwight Fraley, of $1,559.69 per month were both deposited into the bank account.

The lawsuit alleges that between 2013 and 2017, in the course of Kim Fraley’s employment with Brady, she and Bill Fraley, engaged in a “fraudulent and reckless course of action whereby they converted nearly all of plaintiff’s account assets, being three Thrivent annuities and the F&M account, totaling over $370,000, for their own personal use and enjoyment, and to the detriment and loss of plaintiff.”

The lawsuit also says Kim Fraley, under the direct supervision of Brady, had withdrawal requests from the Thrivent annuities deposited into an account owned by herself and husband, Bill.

There are numerous transaction dates and amounts on all three of the Thrivent accounts, with the largest single one being $54,905.14 on Oct. 17, 2016 and the lowest single one being $2,000 on July 17, 2017. Other withdrawals included $30,000 removed Nov. 5, 2015, and $4,500 taken on June 19, 2014.

The withdrawals totaled $269,577.06, court documents show.

The Post made multiple attempts to seek comments from attorney James DeMay of Concord, who represents Miller, the estate of Edith Fraley and Robert Fraley. No response was made by the deadline.

The Post also made multiple attempts to reach Concord attorney Jay White, who represents Bill and Kim Fraley and Chapman Custom Signs Inc. The Post received no response.

Michael Shor, a Mooresville attorney who represents Thrivent Investment Management Inc. did not respond to questions via email. A message was left with the Charlotte law firm Cozen O’Connor, who represents Brady.

Brady, through his attorney, filed a response to the allegations saying he denies that “Kim Fraley was acting in the course and scope of her employment when she took any action regarding the accounts of Edith Fraley.”

He also says that, according to the lawsuit, all actions taken by Kim Fraley regarding the accounts of Edith Fraley were outside the course and scope of her employment and without the authority of Brady. He also denies being Edith Fraley’s registered Thrivent representative and denies he knew any fraudulent activity was occurring with the account.

Kim Fraley is accused of preparing the Thrivent withdrawal request forms for each of the 23 transactions that took place from June 2014 to December 2017. In the lawsuit, Miller accuses Kim Fraley of forging her mother’s signature on many of the withdrawal forms. And believes that Edith Fraley may have also signed “any of the Thrivent withdrawal request forms.”

“Upon information and belief, William (Bill) Fraley was aware of and complicit in the actions of Kim Fraley in preparing the Thrivent withdrawal request forms for each of the above-identified Thrivent withdrawals, and such funds being transferred to an account owned by himself and/or Kim Fraley,” the lawsuit said.

Miller said in the complaint that she was unaware that the withdrawals were being made and did not grant them permission to withdraw any funds. She said any funds withdrawn for the personal use and enjoyment of Bill and Kim Fraley were the result of fraud and/or undue and improper influence.

The lawsuit claims Bill and Kim Fraley used their access to Edith Fraley’s F&M acount to withdraw and/or transfer funds for their own use including, but not limited to, mortgage payments for their primary residence, utilities, vehicle loan payments, credit card payments, Amazon purchases and other miscellaneous expenses.

Court documents show that four transfers were made by either Bill or Kim Fraley in December to an account owned by Chapman Custom Signs totaling $10,200.

Between 2013 and September 2017, the couple would generally collect mail from Edith Fraley’s post office box, the lawsuit states. In September 2017, the couple went out of town and Edith Fraley obtained her own mail. Edith Fraley noted a mortgage payment and power bill for the couple and ATM withdrawals that she did not authorize, according to court documents.

Edith Fraley shared the information with Miller and her husband, Ricky, saying that her money had been stolen. Edith and Cynthia went to the bank to obtain statements on the account.

According to the court documents, Miller and her brother, Robert Fraley, met with their brother, Bill Fraley, to confront him about the withdrawals. Bill Fraley acknowledged withdrawals and transfers. He agreed to pay the funds back at the rate of $100 a month but “couldn’t afford to do anymore,” court documents state.

The documents also allege Bill Fraley told his siblings that “he and his family had no intentions of changing their lifestyle whatsoever.”

On Dec. 13, 2017, Edith Fraley revoked the durable power of attorney and attorney in fact. On the same day, she gave both Miller and Robert Fraley those same rights. And issues with family care became a topic of discussion. That ultimately prompted Miller to file a fraud report, and court documents say Thrivent reimbursed the account $139,814.14 because they believed the withdrawal forms had been signed by Edith Fraley and therefore “processed in good faith.”