Ayu­dando probe snags pres­i­dent’s hus­band, son

In­dict­ment: Client’s money used for mort­gage, RV, pri­vate boxes at the Pit

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY COLLEEN HEILD JOUR­NAL IN­VES­TIGA­TIVE RE­PORTER

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.

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