Guardianship services firm faces embezzlement and fraud charges
July 21, 2017 06:51 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Federal law enforcement officials announced Wednesday that they have indicted one of the state's largest nonprofit guardianship firms with federal conspiracy, fraud, identity theft and money laundering offenses.
The charges, which are contained in a 28-count indictment, arise out of an alleged decade-long sophisticated scheme to embezzle funds from client trust accounts managed by Ayudando Guardians, a non-profit corporation that provides guardianship, conservatorship and financial management services to hundreds of individuals with special needs.
The 28-count indictment alleges that Ayudando Guardians co-founders Susan Harris and Sharon Moore embezzled millions from their special needs clients to support lavish lifestyles including cruises and car purchases.
Both Harris and Moore were taken into custody Wednesday. The Associated Press reports both women pleaded not guilty.
The indictment includes two conspiracy counts, 10 counts of mail fraud, nine counts of aggravated identity theft and six counts of money laundering.
"The victims in this case relied upon Ayudando to manage their finances and meet their needs. If the allegations in the indictment are true, the principals of Ayudando cruelly violated the trust of their clients and looted their benefits," said acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney in a statement released Wednesday. "Federal law enforcement has now stepped in to ensure that the looting stops. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and its partners will conduct this prosecution in a manner that provides for the continued receipt of benefits by Ayudando’s clients while holding the principals of the company accountable for their conduct."
According to the indictment, Harris and Moore perpetrated the embezzlement scheme by:
- 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 indictment details some of the alleged activity, such as the writing of 12 checks for a total of $457,883 on the Ayudando client reimbursement account for personal purpose, including a $50,950 check made out to Mercedes Benz of Albuquerque and a $26,444 check made out to Myers RV Center.
Both co-founders could face decades behind bars.
Ayudando clients or family members of Ayudando clients who need to speak with someone about their accounts or expenses should call Ayudando, which is now being operated by the U.S. Marshals Service, at 505-332-4357.
Updated: July 21, 2017 06:51 AM
Created: July 20, 2017 12:18 PM
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