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News: 2012 Press Release
For Release: July 25, 2012
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Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones Announces Sentencing of Former Clovis Agent for Stealing from Seniors
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced that Sharon Harrelson, 55, of Clovis, was sentenced in Fresno County Superior Court to six years in jail and ordered to pay $105,000 in restitution, as well as restitution for any future victims. Harrelson, a former life insurance agent, pled no contest to four felony counts for stealing from an elderly person. The plea agreement was reached after four separate complaints were filed by the Fresno County District Attorney's Office.
Harrelson was originally charged with 20 felony counts of theft from an elder or dependent adult, along with five felony counts of embezzlement and three counts of felony grand theft. The charges stem from a two-year joint investigation by the Department of Insurance (CDI) Investigations Division, Fresno County Sheriff's Department Elder Abuse Unit and Madera County Sheriff's Department. Investigators found that in 2009, while Harrelson was employed by a Fresno insurance agency, she lied to clients that she was part owner of the agency and she had them pay service fees directly to her. The agency found discrepancies in its records, fired Harrelson and reported the embezzlement to the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.
Harrelson continued to do business as The Harrelson Group. The investigation found that she gained the trust of one elderly victim in her 80's, talking her into gifting her $60,000. She promised the victim she would invest the money into CD accounts with a local bank. Harrelson then falsified the bank statements that were given to her. A search warrant of Harrelson's bank records showed she had deposited the money into her personal checking account for her own use.
Another elderly female victim, living in a local Fresno retirement home, alleged that Harrelson charged an $8,500 "coaching" fee to help her pre-plan for Medi-Cal long-term care. The woman never received the services. Charges were filed by the Fresno County DA and Harrelson was arrested on March 6, 2012.
Following Harrelson's arrest on the original complaint, additional victims came forward, alleging similar elder abuse. The Fresno Police Department also received complaints from Harrelson's previous clients, alleging she stole from them and/or misrepresented herself while working at local funeral homes. As a result, Harrelson was charged in three additional cases.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California, regulating the $123 billion insurance marketplace. In 2012 the California Department of Insurance received more than 160,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $64 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Out-of-state callers, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
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