Charming, deceiving, a professional scam artist: Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says 55-year-old Sharon Elaine Harrelson is all of it. Harrelson was arrested several weeks ago for 17 counts of elder abuse. Sheriff Mims said, “She's scammed very smart people out of money, property, and she took advantage of companies she worked for through the elderly victims.”
Mims said Harrelson deceived dozens of elderly clients into giving her money directly. Harrelson worked for S.C.I. where she wrote and sold pre-needs plans, but of course, those plans never pulled through.
“It has been discovered that memorial benches and urns that she did not own were purchased by giving money directly to her. Harrelson wrote these plans for Chapel of the Light, Fresno Memorial Gardens and Lisle Funeral Home,” explained Mims.
Harrelson's crimes came to light after Soutas and Associates contacted the sheriff's office. The company assists in long term care planning and insurance services. Investigators say there, Harrelson worked as an advisor and had clients deposit fees directly into her account. Owner Dale Soutas expressed, “It was shocking to say the least that we could be conned by somebody we checked out and trusted as well.”
Investigators say after getting fired, Harrelson started her own company, and continued to deceive clients.
Mims and Soutas say there are easy steps to avoid becoming a victim of these scams. Mims said, Always double check your contracts. Have a family member come with you to your appointments.”
Soutas added, “You don't give the cash or checks to individuals. You write the checks to the companies. You get proper contracts and receipts.”
Sheriff Mims says Harrelson has taken more than one million dollars from dozens of elderly victims. If you and/or someone you know have been a victim, you're asked to call the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.