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Ayudando CFO pleads to 22 crimes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The former chief financial officer for Ayudando Guardians pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to 22 crimes in an agreement that exposes her to between two and 20 years in prison.

Sharon Moore, who owned 5% of the now-defunct firm and managed its day-to-day business, admitted to charges including money laundering, conspiracy, mail fraud and identity theft. The nonprofit corporation provided guardianship, conservatorship, representative payee and other financial services to about 1,400 vulnerable people in New Mexico and Arizona.

Federal authorities announced in July 2017 that at least $4 million had been taken from the company’s clients, some of whom had special needs, and used instead to support the defendants’ lavish lifestyles.

At a plea hearing Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa, Moore, who was earning a six-figure salary, admitted that she routinely moved money out of client accounts and into an account used to pay the balance on a company credit card that she and her co-defendants used to make personal purchases. And she falsified client bank account statements when she sent annual reports to the Veterans Administration “to conceal the theft of money from those accounts.” In one case, she reported that a client had a balance of $141,983 when the actual balance was negative $3,067, according to an indictment.

“From at least 2010 until July 2017, (Ayudando president) Susan K. Harris and I conspired to operate the business in a manner that enabled us to extract client money, use the money for the benefit of ourselves and our families, and conceal our crimes,” Moore admitted in her plea agreement.

Her lawyer, Jason Bowles, declined to comment following the hearing. He and his client maintained in court that Harris and her family received most of the money.

Also as part of the plea agreement, Moore has agreed to forfeit her interest in a fifth-wheel RV, a Jeep Wrangler, a Subaru and two homes, one in the Tanoan subdivision and another near Tower and 86th in southwest Albuquerque.

Harris is scheduled for a plea hearing on Thursday. Two weeks ago, her husband, William Harris, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and told the court that the money had been used for many people’s benefit. A fourth defendant in the case, Craig Young, Susan Harris’ adult son, is scheduled for trial in late September.