Kent council candidate charged with taking $300,000 from mother

The Seattle TimesAugust 17, 2013 

A candidate for the Kent City Council was charged this week with seven counts of first-degree theft for allegedly draining nearly $300,000 from his mother’s bank account and using the money to shore up his failing printing business, according to King County prosecutors.

Charging documents filed Tuesday also suggest that Ken Sharp, 66, used his mother’s money to purchase a $12,000 diamond ring for his third wife and to go on trips to Mazatlan, Mexico, Dubai and Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also accused of taking out a reverse mortgage for nearly $475,000 on his mother’s Tacoma house, the papers say.

Meanwhile, Sharp regularly fell behind on payments to a Federal Way assisted-living facility where his now 93-year-old mother had been living, say the charges, which indicate Helen Sharp “is now in a Medicaid-funded facility and has approximately $20,000 in assets remaining.” She suffers from dementia, the charges state.

Voice messages left Friday afternoon at Sharp’s Kent residence and at his business, Minuteman Press, were not immediately returned.

Mark Prothero, a criminal-defense attorney in Kent who is representing Sharp, said his client “denies ever having any criminal intent to steal from his mom or anyone else.” Sharp admits to taking the money, but “There was always an intent and plan to pay them back for the money he used,” Prothero said.

The charging papers indicate $492,417.58 was transferred from Helen Sharp’s bank account to her son’s account between November 2008 and August 2011. But the seven theft charges filed against Ken Sharp cover only the period between August 2010 and August 2011, when he allegedly transferred $297,500 from his mother’s account to his own.

According to King County Elections, Sharp received 41 percent of the vote in the August primary for Position No. 6 on the Kent City Council, besting his two opponents by more than 10 percent each and advancing to the November general election.

Prothero, who has known Sharp since 2004, said as far as he knows, his client plans to stay in the race.

“He’s an upstanding member of the Kent community,” Prothero said. “He’s a great guy and one of the last people on Earth you’d think would try to rip off his own mother. The accusations in the charges portray something else than the Ken Sharp we all know.”

Sharp graduated from Stadium High School in Tacoma and received an undergraduate degree in psychology from Washington State University, according to his profile in the King County Elections voters’ pamphlet.

“I’ve been an active volunteer with dozens of community organizations, including service as past president of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Kent Downtown Partnership,” reads Sharp’s statement in the voters’ pamphlet. “As a hands-on worker in the East Hill and downtown cleanup projects, I’ve met hundreds of other Kent people who share the goal of making our city great not only for today’s families, but for our kids and grandkids.”

In 2008, Helen Sharp suffered a stroke and moved into an assisted-living facility in Federal Way, the charges say. At the time, she owned her Tacoma home “free and clear,” had liquid assets totaling $220,000 and had living expenses of approximately $5,000 a month, the charges say.

In April, one of Sharp’s two sisters contacted Federal Way police to report theft of her mother’s assets by Sharp, charging documents say. The sister told a detective that Sharp was given power of attorney by his mother in 1995.

The detective assigned to the case scoured bank records and Sharp’s Facebook postings, which mention his various trips and equipment purchased for his business. The detective also interviewed Sharp’s sisters and former wives, who indicated the printing business was in serious financial trouble, according to the charges.

Sharp, accompanied by Prothero, was also interviewed by the detective in June and admitted taking money but said he planned to pay it back, the charges say. His third wife used her own money to pay $17,000 for Helen Sharp’s housing bills, but it does not appear that any more was repaid to her bank account.

Sharp apparently cut contact with his sisters last summer after they demanded a lump-sum payment of $200,000, according to the charges. He acknowledged to the detective that he could have transferred money into his mother’s account, even though he claimed his sisters never responded to his attempts to “resolve this.”

Though Sharp was arrested in June, he was not booked into jail. He has since been issued a summons to appear in court Aug. 29 for his arraignment.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654

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