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Ex-Kent City Councilman Sharp pleads guilty to stealing money from his 93-year-old mother
Former Kent City Councilman Ken Sharp pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing $297,500 from his 93-year-old mother nearly one year after Federal Way Police arrested him for investigation of first-degree theft.
Sharp entered the guilty plea to seven counts of first-degree theft charges and one count of mortgage fraud in King County Superior Court at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Despite his arrest last June, Sharp stayed in his first race for the council and voters elected him to office in a close contest against Bailey Stober.
Sharp then resigned in January just two weeks into office because of what he said were "pending legal issues I fear will become too distracting for my fellow council members, for the mayor and for city staff."
The Kent businessman is scheduled to be sentenced at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, June 20 before Judge James Cayce. Sharp could face a sentence of up to 43 months in prison, according to Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Sharp remains out of custody pending sentencing.
The length of the sentence could be reduced based on how much restitution Sharp pays by his sentencing date to the King County Clerks Office, according to court papers. If Sharp pays less than $100,000, the state will recommend the sentence remain at 43 months. If he pays more than $100,000 but less than $200,000 the state will move to dismiss one theft charge and recommend a sentence of 29 months. If he pays more than $200,000, the state will move to dismiss two theft charges and recommend a sentence of 22 months.
The 67-year-old Sharp, who owns Minuteman Press in Kent, had his court hearings continued numerous times over the last 10 months before entering his guilty plea. He initially pleaded not guilty last August to taking money from his mother's bank account and putting the money into his own account.
King County prosecutors filed charges Aug. 15 against Sharp. His mother lived in Federal Way at the time of the theft. Sharp was president in 2012 of the Kent Chamber of Commerce,
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.
Relatives of Sharp contacted Federal Way Police in April 2013 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 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.
Ken Sharp's theft transfers from his mother's bank account:
• 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