Federal Grand Jury Files Superseding Indictment in Criminal Case Against Co-Founders of Ayudando Guardians
Superseding Indictment Adds Two New Defendants, William S. Harris and Craig M. Young, Husband and Son, Respectively, of Previously Charged Defendant Susan Harris; Also Adds Five New Money Laundering Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal grand jury sitting in Albuquerque, N.M., filed a superseding indictment on Dec. 5, 2017, in the criminal case against Susan Harris, 71, and Sharon Moore, 62, the co-founders of Ayudando Alpha, Inc., d/b/a “Ayudando Guardians, Inc.” (Ayudando Guardians or Ayudando), a now defunct non-profit Albuquerque-based corporation that provided guardianship, conservatorship and financial management services to hundreds of individuals with special needs. The superseding indictment amends the original indictment by adding two new defendants, William S. Harris, 56, and Craig M. Young, 52, the husband and son, respectively, of defendant Susan Harris, and five new counts of money laundering.
The superseding indictment, which was filed under seal, was unsealed earlier today after the Special Agents of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation arrested William Harris and Young, both of whom made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Yarbrough in federal court in Albuquerque this morning. William Harris and Curtis are scheduled to return to court tomorrow morning for detention hearings, when they also will be arraigned on the superseding indictment. Moore is scheduled to be arraigned on the superseding indictment on Dec. 11, 2017, and Susan Harris is scheduled for arraignment on Dec. 12, 2017.
The Original Indictment
The original indictment, which was filed on July 11, 2017, generally alleged that Susan Harris and Moore perpetuated a decade-long sophisticated scheme to embezzle funds from client trust accounts managed by Ayudando Guardians. According to the indictment, Ayudando Guardians received government benefit payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of many of its clients, and acted as a fiduciary or representative payee for these clients by paying their expenses and maintaining the balances for the benefit of the clients. The indictment alleged that Harris and Moore, the primary owners and operators of Ayudando, embezzled millions of dollars from their special needs clients to support lavish lifestyles for themselves and their families.
The original indictment was comprised of 28-counts, including two conspiracy counts, ten counts of mail fraud, ten counts of aggravated identify theft and six counts of money laundering. It alleged that from Nov. 2006, when Harris and Moore founded Ayudando, and continuing until July 2017, Ayudando, Harris and Moore embezzled millions of dollars from Ayudando client accounts to cover their personal expenses and support lavish lifestyles for themselves and their families. According to the indictment, Harris and Moore perpetuated the embezzlement scheme by:
- Establishing Ayudando as a non-profit corporation in Nov. 2006, to position it as a guardian, conservator, fiduciary and representative payee for individuals needing assistance with their financial affairs;
- Setting up client trust and company bank accounts which only they controlled;
- Transferring funds from client accounts to Ayudando company accounts;
- Using client funds to pay off more than $4 million in charges on a company credit card account used by Harris, Moore and their families for personal purposes;
- Writing checks from Ayudando company accounts to themselves, cash and to cover personal expenses; replenishing depleted client accounts with funds taken from other clients; mailing fraudulent statements and certifications to the VA; and
- Forging and submitting forged bank statements to the VA.
The mail fraud charges in the original indictment described some of the fraudulent documents allegedly mailed by Ayudando, Harris and Moore to the VA to perpetuate and conceal their embezzlement scheme. For example, between Jan. 2016 and Nov. 2016, Moore allegedly mailed fraudulent documents to the VA that falsely represented the balances in ten client accounts. The documents falsely claimed that the ten client accounts had an aggregate balance of $1,906,908, when the actual value of the ten accounts was only $72,281. The original indictment identified the ten client accounts as examples of the fraud allegedly perpetrated by the defendants as part of their embezzlement scheme.
According to the original indictment, Ayudando, Harris and Moore also engaged in aggravated identify theft by using their clients’ names, dates of birth, Social Security Numbers and VA file numbers to commit mail fraud offenses. Harris and Moore also allegedly committed money-laundering offenses by using $392,623 from the Ayudando client reimbursement account to pay off balances on a company credit card used by the defendants and their families for personal purposes.
The original indictment included forfeiture provisions seeking forfeiture to the United States of any proceeds and property involved in, or derived from, the defendants’ unlawful conduct.
The Superseding Indictment
The superseding indictment is the result of an ongoing multi-agency investigation by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), VA Office of Inspector General and SSA Office of Inspector General. It amends the original indictment by adding William Harris and Young as defendants to the two conspiracy counts, ten mail fraud counts, and eight of the ten substantive money laundering counts. The superseding indictment also adds several new overt acts to Count 1, the conspiracy charge, including the following:
- From Oct. 2010 through July 2017, Susan Harris, Moore and Young allegedly paid Young’s personal mortgage through a series of 83 checks totaling $206,970 from Ayudando bank accounts.
- From March 2013 through July 2017, Susan Harris, William Harris, Moore and Young maintained a private box at the University of New Mexico basketball arena, also known as the “Pit,” and allegedly provided $304,863 in Ayudando client funds to the UNM Lobo Club, UNM Athletic Department, UNM Catering and UNM Ticketing Services.
- In March 2014, Susan Harris and Moore allegedly invested $100,000 in Ayudando client funds to a fantasy football software company.
- Between July 2014 and July 2017, Susan Harris, William Harris, Moore and Young, allegedly paid $20,900 in Ayudando client funds to William Harris’s mother in exchange for a recreational vehicle.
- Between Nov. 2014 and Oct. 2015, Susan Harris, William Harris and Moore allegedly used $15,700 of Ayudando client funds to pay a New Mexico state tax liability incurred by William Harris while operating an unrelated business.
- In March 2017, Susan Harris, William Harris and Moore allegedly applied for a $250,000 business loan supposedly to expand Ayudando’s business but actually to “pay back” clients from whom they had taken money without authorization.
The superseding indictment also includes the following two new counts of money laundering against Susan Harris and Moore. Counts 22 and 23 allege that on Feb. 28 and 29, 2016, Susan Harris and Moore engaged in financial transactions intended to conceal that they involved the proceeds of mail fraud when they made payments to the UNM Lobo Club. It also includes three new counts of money laundering against all four defendants. Counts 26 and 27 charge the four defendants with engaging in financial transactions involving the alleged $100,000 investment in the fantasy football software company, and Count 30 charges the four defendants with a money laundering charge relating to the use of Ayudando client funds for “Pit” related expenses.
The forfeiture provisions in the superseding indictment are amended to seek forfeiture of the following parcels of real estate and the following vehicles:
- The Albuquerque residence of Susan Harris and William Harris;
- The Albuquerque residence of Moore;
- The Albuquerque residence of Young;
- Two Albuquerque residences owned by Moore;
- A 2018 5th Wheel Vehicle owned by Susan Harris and William Harris; and
- A 2014 Jeep Wrangler.
Ayudando Guardian, as a corporate entity, was charged as a defendant in the original indictment but to date has not had an attorney enter an appearance on its behalf. On July 19, 2017, the USMS took over Ayudando’s business operations under a federal court order authorizing it to operate the business so that its assets were not improperly spent or removed, and so that the interests of Ayudando clients were protected as the prosecution of the criminal case moved forward. On Aug. 31, 2017, the USMS announced that it was closing the offices of Ayudando Guardians while continuing to be responsible for managing Ayudando’s business affairs under a protective restraining order issued by the federal court. Ayudando Guardians is not named as a defendant in the superseding indictment.
Statutory Penalties for Charges in Superseding Indictment
If the defendants are convicted on the crimes charged in the superseding indictment, they face the following maximum statutory penalties:
- Count 1, conspiracy – 30 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine;
- Counts 2-11, mail fraud – 30 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine;
- Counts 12-21, aggravated identity theft – a mandatory two-years of imprisonment that must be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed on other counts and a $250,000 fine;
- Counts 22-23, money laundering – 20 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine or twice the amount of the property involved in the crime;
- Counts 23-32, money laundering – ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine or twice the amount of the property involved in the crime; and
- Count 33, conspiracy to commit money laundering – ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine or twice the amount of the property involved in the crime.
Susan Harris and Moore have entered not guilty pleas to the original indictment. Arraignment hearings on the superseding indictment for the four defendants have not yet been scheduled.
The Albuquerque offices of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation, which resulted in the charges in the superseding 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.
Information about the federal investigation into Ayudando Guardians is available at www.justice.gov/usao-nm/ayudando-guardians.
Charges in indictments are merely allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.