AYUDANDO GUARDIANS’ PRESIDENT AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER PLEAD GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY, MAIL FRAUD, IDENTITY THEFT, AND MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES AS PART OF MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FINANCIAL SCHEME
ALBUQUERQUE – Sharon A. Moore, 64, and Susan K. Harris, 72, of Albuquerque, N.M. pleaded guilty in federal court this week to conspiracy and other financial crimes committed in connection with the operation of Ayudando Guardians, Inc., a non-profit corporation based in Albuquerque that previously provided guardianship, conservatorship, and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to charges previously filed against them in a superseding indictment returned on December 5, 2017. Moore pleaded guilty on July 9 and Harris pleaded guilty on July 11. In their plea agreements, Moore and Harris admitted to conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to their plea agreement, Moore acted as chief financial officer of Ayudando and Susan Harris acted as president. They engaged in a pattern of sophisticated criminal conduct from November 2006 to July 2017. This included unlawfully transferring money from client accounts to a comingled account without any client-based justification. They wrote and endorsed numerous checks, often of more than $10,000, from these comingled accounts to themselves, family members, cash, and other parties where payment would benefit their families. Moore also tried to conceal her criminal activity in reports to the Veterans Administration for fiduciary clients. She falsified bank statements and annual reports to disguise the theft of money from client accounts.
Moore and Harris are currently out of custody pending sentencing. Each faces a mandatory term of two years imprisonment at sentencing. Moore could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison under the terms of her plea agreement, while Harris’ plea agreement does not place an upper limit to the length of imprisonment possible at sentencing. They have also agreed to forfeit assets and funds derived from their offenses and to pay restitution to the victims.
The superseding indictment also charged Harris’s husband, William S. Harris, 58, and her son, Craig M. Young, 53. William Harris pleaded guilty on June 25, 2019, to conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit money laundering. Young is scheduled to go to trial September 23, 2019. Charges in an indictment are merely allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Albuquerque offices of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation, which resulted in the charges in the indictment, and are leading the continuing investigation. The Complex Assets Unit and the Albuquerque office of the USMS, the Criminal Investigations Division of the VA Office of Inspector General, and the Dallas Field Division of the SSA Office of Inspector General are assisting in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy Peña and Brandon L. Fyffe are prosecuting the case.