Ayudando probe snags president’s husband, son
Indictment: Client’s money used for mortgage, RV, private boxes at the Pit
The federal investigation into the alleged multimillion-dollar embezzlement of client funds at the now-defunct Ayudando Guardians Inc. has now snagged company President Susan Harris’ husband and her adult son from her first marriage.
William S. Harris and Craig M. Young were arrested Thursday on charges of money laundering, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy. They were detained pending a detention hearing set for this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough of Albuquerque.
Their names initially sur-
faced — via Ayudando credit card purchases — during the yearlong investigation that led to the initial grand jury indictment in July of company President Harris and Sharon Moore, chief financial officer.
The two women owned and operated the nonprofit organization, which provided guardianship, conservatorship, representative payee and other financial services to about 1,400 clients in New Mexico and Arizona.
All four defendants had Ayudando company credit cards, federal records show.
The new, superseding indictment unsealed Thursday in Albuquerque added revelations to the already shocking allegations of how at least $4 million in client savings and other benefits were siphoned off to support the defendants’ lavish lifestyles, including luxury cruises and vacations.
For instance, the new indictment alleges:
The four defendants collectively spent more than $304,000 in client funds for private box suites at the Pit, the University of New Mexico’s basketball arena, over the past four years.
More than $206,000 was diverted from client savings and other accounts to pay Young’s personal mortgage for seven years.
Harris’ mother received about $20,900 in Ayudando client funds in exchange for a recreational vehicle that she conveyed to Young and Harris’ husband, William.
The Harris couple and Moore used Ayudando client funds from a company’s petty cash account to satisfy “a New Mexico state tax liability that William S. Harris incurred while operating a previous and unrelated business.” Susan and William Harris have been married for 27 years.
Moore and Susan Harris gave $100,000 in client funds to an Albuquerque company that develops software related to fantasy football. They converted client funds into two cashier’s checks “so the source of the funds wasn’t apparent to the recipients.”
But the alleged spending spree started to sputter earlier this year, according to the indictment.
In March, Moore and the Harris couple applied for a $250,000 business loan from New Mexico Bank & Trust, “supposedly to expand the Ayudando Guardians business but actually to ‘pay back’ clients from whom they had taken money without authorization,” the indictment says.
It wasn’t clear from the indictment whether they got the loan.
Both Harris and Moore drew yearly salaries in excess of $120,000, according to an IRS tax filing for 2015, the most recent available to the public. William Harris was paid $56,841 as a member of Ayudando’s board of directors, while Young was paid $80,580 annually as a director.
The filing says that Ayudando was a nonprofit private foundation that had nonprofit status by virtue of providing services to the elderly, veterans, the disabled and the homeless. After the initial indictment, the U.S. Marshals Service assumed operation of the firm, which was closed in late August.
The indictment contends the scheme to defraud clients began in January 2010.
It’s unclear why it took so long for the diversion of funds to be discovered.
The company’s 200 or so guardianship and conservatorship cases were subject to annual oversight by state district courts in New Mexico. And the nonprofit filed two years’ worth of staterequired audit statements showing employees were borrowing client funds, and some had not been repaid.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs required annual accounting of benefits paid to military veterans through Ayudando, but those accounting records were allegedly falsified.
That millions of dollars had been diverted came to light only after several Ayudando employees contacted federal law enforcement agents in June 2016 with concerns that their bosses were looting client accounts.
Moore and Susan Harris were released pending trial by putting their Tanoan-area homes up as security. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of the Harris couple’s home, Young’s home and three of Sharon Moore’s homes.