Sheriff seeks more victims of scam targeting elderly

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says Sharon Harrelson is that scam artist. Harrelson is in jail facing 17 counts of embezzlement and elder abuse.

"We believe Harrelson is a professional scam artist, she conned very smart people out of their money, their property and in fact she took advantage of companies she worked for."

In most of the cases Harrelson is accused of selling burial insurance and coverage for other funeral expenses for reputable companies, but keeping the money herself.

Mims said: "Harrelson wrote these loans for Chapel of the Light, Fresno Memorial Gardens and Lisle Funeral Home."

She's also accused of embezzling money for an insurance company she worked for, and of taking advantage of elderly people she met in connection with the insurance and funeral planning business in other ways.

This is how Michael Wyrick, the son of one her alleged victims described Harreslon in a previous Action News story. "I feel really silly in the end for trusting her, but she's very convincing."

In another case the sheriff says an elderly woman moved in with Harrelson, and ended up giving her a million dollars before she died. Sheriff Mims says many of the victims may be too embarrassed to come forward, but adds: "There's no shame in this. She was very good at what she did."

These alleged scams took place in Fresno and Madera counties. The sheriffs' department tells us the affected funeral homes have honored any of the fraudulent contracts written by Harelson. She is now in the Fresno county jail, and is expected to appear in court on the felony charges next month. Anyone who has dealt with Sharon Harrelson is urged to contact the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

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