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King County prosecutors file theft charges against Kent City Council candidate Ken Sharp
King County prosecutors charged Kent City Council candidate Ken Sharp on Thursday with seven counts of first-degree theft in connection with allegedly taking $297,500 from his 93-year-old mother's bank account and putting the money into his account.
Sharp is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 29 in Courtroom GA of the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. The King County Superior Court has issued a summons for Sharp, who has no prior criminal history, to appear in court.
If convicted as charged, Sharp faces a prison sentence of 22 to 29 months, according to Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Despite the charges, Sharp plans to stay in the race for the council.
"Absolutely," Sharp said in a one-word answer to an email about how the charges would impact the race and if he planned to stay in the race.
Sharp won a council primary race Aug. 6 over opponents Bailey Stober and Barbara Phillips to replace Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson, who decided not to seek re-election. Sharp and Stober had the most votes among the three to advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
The 66-year-old Sharp owns Minuteman Press in Kent and served as president last year of the Kent Chamber of Commerce.
Federal Way Police arrested Sharp on June 21 for investigation of theft. After reviewing the case over the last several weeks, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Page Ulrey decided to file the charges.
The seven counts are for the seven dates between August 2010 and August 2011 when Sharp transferred funds from Helen Sharp's bank account into his own account, according to charging papers.
"Sharp, with intent to deprive another of property, did wrongfully obtain such property belonging to Helen Sharp and did obtain control over such property belonging to Helen Sharp by color and aid of deception, and did exert unauthorized control over such property belonging to Helen Sharp," Ulrey wrote in the charging documents.
Mark Prothero, a Kent defense attorney representing Sharp, said during a phone interview Thursday that Sharp cooperated with the investigation and provided documents to prosecutors.
"Our position is Ken never had any intent to commit theft from his mother or anyone else," Prothero said. "For now, that's all I can say."
Relatives of Sharp contacted Federal Way Police on April 2 about a theft complaint of money from Helen Sharp, according to the affidavit for a search warrant filed in King County Superior Court. They accused Ken Sharp of taking money from his mother after discovering few funds remained in her bank account.
Ken Sharp received power of attorney in 1995 for Helen Sharp's financial decisions with the approval of her family members. Helen Sharp had lived in her Tacoma home until moving to a Federal Way assisted-living facility in 2008 because of failing health. At that time, Helen Sharp had liquid assets of $220,000 and monthly living expenses of about $5,000 per month that Ken Sharp paid for out of Helen Sharp's bank account.
Family members told police in April that they later discovered from a reverse mortgage statement mailed to Helen Sharp that Ken Sharp had initiated a reverse mortgage loan on Helen Sharp's home in Tacoma in August 2010. Ken Sharp had told his mother a loan was needed to fix up her house.
Detectives discovered through bank records that Helen Sharp's account received a wire deposit of $263,596.08 on Aug. 19, 2010, just a week after the reverse mortgage application was completed. On that same date, $200,000 was transferred from Helen Sharp's account into Ken Sharp's account.
The seven counts of first-degree theft include the following transfers from Helen Sharp's bank account to Ken Sharp's account, according to bank records obtained by police:
• Aug. 19, 2010, $200,000.
• Aug. 30, 2010, $40,000.
• Sept. 13, 2010, $7,500.
• Dec. 2, 2010, $15,000.
• June 9, 2011, $10,000.
• July 11, 2011, $13,000.
• Aug. 25, 2011, $12,000.
The charging papers indicate that Ken Sharp reportedly used the money to help out his financially struggling business as well as to pay for trips to Spain, Mexico, South Africa, Palm Springs, Calif., Austin, Texas and Friday Harbor; and to buy jewelry (with debits to a jewelry store in Tacoma of $10,000 and $2,358).
During an interview with detectives, Sharp said he paid his mother's bills out of her account or by transferring money to his account. He said the more than $490,000 transferred into his account between 2008 to 2011 was with understanding from his mother that she would help him pay off his debts and bills from his business.
Helen Sharp signed a notarized statement on Sept. 8, 2012, where she stated:
"I, Helen Sharp, gave rights to Ken Sharp as my Power of Attorney so he could pay my bills. I did not want a reverse mortgage or any other loan on my house. I did not give Ken Sharp any money for his business or any other reason."
Detectives confirmed through an interview with the Federal Way assisted-living facility director that Helen Sharp suffers from dementia and "was not able to make good decisions or have good judgement on her own."
Police also discovered that payments for Helen Sharp's care at the Federal Way assisted-living facility fell behind in 2010 and 2012 with numerous late fees charged. Ken Sharp was listed as the responsible party on the account. Sara Sharp, the wife of Ken, made two large payments of her "personal money" to help cover the costs.