From the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico:
ALBUQUERQUE – Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and U.S. Marshal Conrad E. Candelaria announced that the office of Ayudando Alpha, Inc., d/b/a “Ayudando Guardians, Inc.” (Ayudando), will close effective today, August 31, 2017. Despite the office’s closing, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) remains responsible for managing Ayudando’s business affairs under a protective restraining order issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, which authorized the USMS’s Complex Assets Unit to assume control of Ayudando’s business operations.
The U.S. Marshals Service took over Ayudando’s business operations on July 19, 2017, when federal officials announced the filing of a 28-count indictment against Ayudando and its co-founders, Susan Harris, 70, and Sharon Moore, 62. The indictment alleges conspiracy, fraud, theft and money laundering charges arising out of an alleged scheme to embezzle funds from client trust accounts managed by Ayudando, a non-profit corporation that provides guardianship, conservatorship and financial management services to hundreds of individuals with special needs. The federal court order authorized the USMS to operate the business to ensure that its assets were not improperly spent or removed, and that the interests of Ayudando clients were protected as the prosecution of the criminal case moves forward.
Acting under the federal court order, the USMS has facilitated the transfer of the vast majority of Ayudando’s approximately 1,400 clients, including all clients who receive benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Social Security Administration, to other service providers and/or new representative payees. In addition, the majority of clients for whom Ayudando was appointed as guardian by the state courts have also been transferred to temporary guardians pending final transfers in the coming weeks. As part of these processes, clients can expect to receive communication from their new representative payee, guardian, or fiduciary if they have not already.
Ayudando clients who are still awaiting transfers will receive services from providers that have entered into agreements with Ayudando and the USMS to provide temporary, interim services until long-term transfers can be accomplished:
Ayudando clients who are part of the class of individuals covered by the New Mexico Office of Guardianship will receive services from either CNRAG, Inc., Tierra Alta Guardianship Services, LLC, or Quality of Life Guardians, LLC, until the courts can appoint new temporary or permanent guardians for those individuals, if appropriate.
Any other Ayudando clients for whom Ayudando maintained guardianship, medical power of attorney accounts, private trust accounts or conservator services will receive guardianship services from Ascending Hope, LLC, or financial fiduciary services from Bridge to Success, Inc., until the courts can appoint new temporary or permanent guardians for those individuals, if appropriate.
Although the physical office space of Ayudando are now closed and other service providers are servicing Ayudando clients, the USMS remains responsible for managing Ayudando’s business affairs pursuant to the federal court order, and remains committed to ensuring continuity of service for Ayudando clients.
Harris and Moore have entered not guilty pleas to the charges in the indictment and are under pretrial supervision and other conditions of release pending trial, which has yet to be scheduled. The public is reminded that charges in indictments are merely allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Information about the federal investigation into Ayudando, including the pending prosecution of Ayudando and its principals and the federal court order, is available at www.justice.gov/usao-nm/ayudando-guardians.
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 and Phoenix, Ariz., offices of the USMS, the Criminal Investigations Division of the VA Office of Inspector General, and the Dallas Field Division of the SSA Office of Inspector General are assisting in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy Peña and Brandon L. Fyffe are prosecuting the case.