Part-owner and chief financial officer of Ayudando Guardians sentenced to 20 years in prison for $11 million financial fraud scheme
Law enforcement searching for two fugitive co-defendants who did not appear for sentencing
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A federal judge in Santa Fe, New Mexico sentenced Sharon A. Moore, 64, of Albuquerque to 20 years in federal prison on March 2 for 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. Meanwhile, the judge issued bench warrants for Susan K. Harris, 73, and William S. Harris, 58, of Albuquerque after they failed to appear with Moore for their scheduled sentencing hearing.
U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez sentenced Moore to a term of 240 months in prison followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. Judge Vazquez also ordered Moore to pay the entire amount of stolen funds as restitution to the victims.
Moore pleaded guilty on July 9, 2019, and Susan Harris pleaded guilty on July 11, 2019. In their plea agreements, Harris and Moore admitted to conspiracy, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Susan Harris was the 95% owner of Ayudando and acted as president; Moore was a 5% owner and acted as chief financial officer of Ayudando. They engaged in a decade-long 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 as part of the fraud scheme and money laundering conspiracy. Susan Harris and Sharon Moore 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. The stolen funds were used to fund a luxury lifestyle and were used to purchase homes, vehicles, luxury RVs and cruises, as well as a private box at “the Pit” at the University of New Mexico. The stolen funds were also utilized to pay off more than $4.4 million in American Express charges incurred by the defendants and their families.
In order to conceal the fraud scheme, Moore created and sent forged and fraudulent reports to the Veterans Administration for fiduciary clients. She falsified bank statements and annual reports to disguise the theft of money from client accounts. Susan Harris also took acts to maintain Ayudando’s appearance of legitimacy, including submitting a proposal to the New Mexico Office of Guardianship which contained numerous false representations, including a false claim that another defendant was a nationally certified guardian at the time of the submission.
William Harris pleaded guilty on June 25, 2019. In his plea agreement, he admitted to acting in concert with his co-defendants to cheat the United States government out of money and property. William Harris admitted that he knew that Moore was siphoning payments to clients from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration and using the money to benefit herself, Susan Harris, and their co-conspirators. William Harris specifically admitted receiving, endorsing, and depositing dozens of checks drawn on Ayudando accounts for his own personal benefit.
William Harris also admitted to his involvement in a money laundering scheme. He acknowledged using an Ayudando corporate credit card for personal expenses, knowing that it would be paid for with client money. He admitted his role in a loan application for the stated purpose of expanding the Ayudando business with the actual intent of using the money to “pay back” clients whose money they took without authorization.
The Complex Assets Unit of the U.S. Marshals Service is continuing to work to locate assets and funds that can be seized and returned to victims through the forfeiture and restitution process. Additionally, the VA and SSA are working to provide reimbursement of stolen government benefits to those Ayudando clients that received benefits from those agencies, consistent with federal law and regulations.
Fugitives: Photos of the fugitives, Susan K. Harris and William S. Harris, are attached to this press release. Individuals with information about the whereabouts of Susan K. Harris and William S. Harris should contact the U.S. Marshals Service at (505) 462-2300.
A fourth defendant, Craig M. Young, who is the son of Susan and William Harris, pleaded guilty on November 12, 2019, to conspiracy and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is currently out of custody awaiting sentencing at a future date. In light of Susan and William Harris’ fugitive status, Judge Vázquez added electronic monitoring to Craig Young’s conditions of release.
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 Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the Dallas Field Division of the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General are assisting in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy Peña and Brandon L. Fyffe are prosecuting the case.