‘She’s little but mighty’
Candace Vogel, nicknamed ‘The Fraud Broad,’ closes 36 years of
chasing criminals with the Erie County District Attorney’s office
When Candace Vogel retired from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office last month after 36 years, it represented the next step in a life that hasn’t always followed an anticipated trajectory.
“I’ve had a crazy go-through,” Vogel reflected. “I’ve had so many different lives, and each one was almost totally encapsulated.”
Vogel, who turned 79 the day before she retired, has worked for the DA since graduating from the University at Buffalo’s School of Law in 1986. She was a recent widow then, in her mid-40s, raising two children. Joining the DA’s office wasn’t just her first job in law — it was her first adult job ever. Prior to that, she had been known as “Mrs. James Vogel.”
Four decades later, she has garnered a strong reputation and respect in local law circles. Others may have worked for the DA longer, but Vogel believes she was the oldest person in the office. Nicknamed “The Fraud Broad” because of her work in white collar crimes such as embezzlement, forgery, and identity theft, Vogel has worked many cases in the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit, called SIP.
“It’s not like working a homicide,” she said. “I’m generally not dealing with someone who has caused death, but they have caused serious problems for others. I joke that there’s no blood in my bureau unless you have a paper cut.”
Never worked the makeup counter
Vogel did not set out to be an attorney. Born in Utica, she arrived at the University at Buffalo in 1961 as one of three females enrolled in its School of Pharmacy. To illustrate the mindset of that era, a male professor assured the women that they would have no trouble finding jobs, because they would be able to work a makeup counter as well.
She soon met “a townie” — Buffalo native James Vogel, a Nichols graduate, who was attending law school in Albany.
“So I went to Albany, but there was no pharmacy school there. The closest major after having completed two years here was a history major. So I did that, then earned a Master’s in Education.”
Along the way, she married James and the couple returned to Buffalo, where he accepted a job with the Erie County District Attorney. She became a stay-at-home mom, shuttling their two children, Deborah and Jeffrey, to figure skating and hockey games.
“I was president of the skating club in Amherst, and spent my days at the tennis center,” she said. “I look back now, and think, ‘Whoa, was that really me?’”
In the 1980s, James passed away at 42, leaving Vogel a single mother. Displaying an interest in the legal system, and having previously volunteered on judicial campaigns, she was accepted to UB’s School of Law in 1983.
“When I came out of law school, I wanted to do litigation,” she recalled. “But big law firms weren’t interested in someone who was already in her 40s. They wanted their years of service out of you. So I ended up getting hired at the DA’s office.”
Not only did Vogel carve out a professional career, but her children did as well. Today, Deborah is an assistant school principal in a suburb of Rochester, and Jeffrey is also an attorney, living in Charlotte, N.C.
In 1999, Vogel remarried Howard Yood. Together they raised Yood’s two grandsons, William and Nate, who are now in their 30s. Yood passed away several years ago.
One of Vogel’s best friends is retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang. Wolfgang, who hosts a weekly radio program “On Target with Penny Wolfgang,” is a regular reader of Buffalo Tales. She has interviewed us (you can find that link on our “About” page), and we have interviewed her.
“We have probably known each other more than 25 years,” Wolfgang said of Vogel. “We met through work. She was appearing in front of me with cases. We grew close after our husbands died. It was a similar situation where we were both alone. Just by chance, we were in chambers talking about traveling. One of us said ‘I wish I could go to Greece.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it together.’ We’ve taken trips to Europe together. I’ve gone to Florida with her. In the last five years, we’ve been to Greece and Italy. We just got back from London and Paris a few months ago.”
Wolfgang noted that Vogel’s tiny stature — she’s under five feet tall — belies her friend’s high energy.
“She walks very fast compared to normal people,” Wolfgang laughed. “She’s athletic and she marches. It’s hard to keep up with her when she’s a mile ahead of me. She’s little but mighty. She’s like Mighty Mouse."
For more than three decades, Vogel has been active in the legal community. Since 2016, she has been chief of the SIP division for the DA, and has been on the Board of Directors for the Bar Association of Erie County. She was named “Woman Lawyer of the Year” in 2009 by the Women Lawyers of Western New York and “Prosecutor of the Year” in 2008 by the International Association of Financial Crimes. Yet Vogel is quick to credit others for her successes over the years.
“The people I’ve worked with have made me look good,” she said. “As a DA, you get the glory. ‘Oh, she won the case. Isn’t that great?’ But there are so many people behind that. Great employees at banks taught me about finance. Wonderful mentors in the Secret Service taught me about new technology that’s coming in. Police officers have conducted difficult interviews to get to the truth.”
Vogel understood that cases she closed in SIP were not likely to land on a newspaper’s front page. Few were high profile, and didn’t always capture the public’s attention. But the work was vital, and she feels empathy for both the victims and the perpetrators.
“A burglar comes in through your front door,” she explained. “Scammers work their way into your heart and your brain. Some victims are wonderful people who got scammed because of their belief in others. They just got taken. I’ve even met some very nice defendants who would have been great, if only they had put their talents elsewhere.”
Vogel believes that most white collar criminals don’t begin with the intent to steal. Rather, scams begin when the opportunity presents itself. She has dubbed these “salami embezzlements.”
“People go to Hickory Farms where they sell a Yard-O-Beef. You buy one with the idea of keeping it in the refrigerator when people stop over for the holidays. Company comes and you take a little bit off it. Then a little more the next day. By the time Christmas week comes, there are only two inches of salami left. An embezzler might be 50 bucks short one week before their check came. They took some money, but put it back. The next week, they didn’t put it back, but kept track of it. Then they take a little more. Pretty soon, they’ve forgotten how much they’ve taken, and they’re in deep, especially if the person is a gambler. They don’t necessarily start out as bad people.”
Detective Lieutenant Joseph LaCorte retired from the Amherst Police eight years ago after serving 42 years in the department. During that time, he often interacted with Vogel.
“We worked everything from homicide investigations to fraud,” LaCorte said. “We covered the gamut. We didn’t always agree on a case, but she was one of the few DAs who would listen to your side instead of just saying, ‘I’ll decide whether we’re going to prosecute.’ Sometimes I changed her mind, and sometimes I didn’t. We had some good fights, and became friends along the way. She was dedicated, and a true professional.”
Her retirement will leave a void of experience in the field of embezzlement, LaCorte believes.
“I don’t know anyone else with her experience or knowledge,” he said. “She can follow a paper trail like no one I’ve ever met. She taught me and other detectives a great deal. She was always the go-to person on fraud cases. Her nickname, ‘The Fraud Broad,’ was meant with the utmost respect.”
‘Replacement' Discover cards
Vogel encountered many interesting cases during her long career. One that she remembers well is from 2004, before identity theft had been written into law.
“The situation was that a man from Grand Island got a notice in the mail that they were sending him a new Discover Card. He had had a Discover Card years ago, but hadn’t asked for a new one, because he never used the one he had. He was surprised when they said they were sending him the new card he requested. He happened to get in touch with the State Police. It was really a nothing call. State Police called Discover, and a woman there said, ‘What is it with you people in Western New York? Everyone keeps losing their cards there.’”
Police quickly determined that new cards were being sent to customers who had previously owned them. Yet those cards had not been lost, nor did they need replacement.
“We got names and there was fraud on all these cards,” Vogel said. “Everything was being sent to addresses in Buffalo where the owners didn’t live. One of the things that was constantly being purchased was computers from a store on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Every one of these cards had bought a computer there. Officers visited the store, but all of the computers had been picked up in person, so there were no addresses to lead us back to the credit cards.”
Investigators were stuck, and the case appeared to be a dead end — until someone in California reached out to see if a computer that had been purchased from eBay might be repaired.
“That person had information about who the computer was bought from,” Vogel said. “That broke the case once we found out who was involved. It was four men here, one of whom was an international kick boxer from Lockport. They had done well over a half-million dollars of identity theft.”
Vogel praised the work of State Police, recalling that the process wasn’t always smooth.
“It’s funny how things don’t always go right,” she said. “We were planning to do a search warrant at the houses of all of these men on the Monday when I returned from Disney World. So I was at a parade site in Disney with two little grandchildren when I got a call from the State Police. One of the guys under investigation had come into the barracks and wanted to know why he was being looked at. We’re thinking, ‘There are only four of us working this case. How did that information get out?’ Well, the guy who bought the computer on eBay posted online that people shouldn’t deal with these guys because police were investigating them.”
LaCorte, the retired Amherst Detective Lieutenant, recalled another example of fraud that he worked in conjunction with Vogel, when a man was arrested for bilking friends.
“There was an interesting case from when I first became a detective,” LaCorte said. “A gentlemen defrauded his friends out of $1 million in credit card expenses. He went to jail, then came out and did the same exact thing. He was an interesting person. He would befriend people, get all their information, then open credit cards by using their names. He was smart enough to make minimum payments on the cards so it looked like they were good, then he would max them out and not pay them. He was arrested again. His victims were here but he was living in Las Vegas. Candy had him extradited. So 30 years later, he was being prosecuted for the exact same thing. Here is a guy who just doesn’t learn.”
‘A great trial lawyer’
Daniel Weinstein, a Buffalo lawyer who retired as the law clerk to a State Supreme Court judge, recalls the first case when he encountered Vogel on the job.
“There was a woman pharmacist who was pilfering money,” Weinstein recalled. “It went to trial, and for every allegation, check, or phony cash transaction, Candy proved it to the jury. They weren’t out long, and the woman was convicted on every count. Candy is a great trial lawyer.”
More than that, however, Weinstein noted that it’s rare for someone to remain in the District Attorney’s office for as long as Vogel did.
“There are people that make a career out of being with the DA,” Weinstein said. “Thirty-six years is a long time at any job, especially a job that is run by a political event every four years. It’s a big deal. I received a notice about a retirement party on her last day, but it needed to be pushed back an hour and a half because Candy had court that morning. That’s your tag line, right there. That’s just Candy.”
Vogel noted that most people her age may not be adept at navigating computers, but thanks to her job, she was always pleased to learn about new tools and techniques as technology evolved. Sometimes, however, that technology became skewed.
“You know what doesn’t get any play?” she asked. “Police and all the video camera recordings. You only see the bad elements. No one ever plays hours and hours of video where officers are doing the right thing. It’s a different world now, and that’s one of the reasons I’m leaving. Maybe I want to remember it for all the happy times.”
Text © 2023 by Jeff Schober
Jeff Schober is the best-selling author of ten books, including the true crime book Bike Path Rapist with Det. Dennis Delano, Growing Up Gronk, and the Buffalo Crime Fiction Quartet. He has a journalism degree from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in English and History from the University at Buffalo. He teaches English and Journalism at Frontier High School in Hamburg. Visit his website at www.jeffschober.com.
Steve Desmond is an award-winning photographer. With his son, Francis, he is the author of A Life of Purpose, which raises money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. To view more of Steve's work — including concerts and views from a recent trip out west, like the one at left — he can be followed on Facebook, under "Steve Desmond" and "Desmond's PrimeFocus Photography," or on Instagram at "Stevedesmond9."
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