Former Investment Advisor Indicted by Grand Jury

An investment adviser turned interior decorator with Highland Park ties was indicted last month by a Dallas County grand jury for fraud, court documents revealed.

Sarah Helen Hancock, 61, is accused of one count each of theft of more than $300,000, misapplying fiduciary property of more than $300,000, and securities fraud of more than $100,000.

All three charges are first-degree felonies.

The indictments accuse her of stealing from clients of her firm, Hancock-Smith. The clients apparently belonged primarily to two families, one in Tyler and one in Midland, and the fraud allegedly began around 2010. She is also accused of not acting in their financial interests, using their money to pay for her own expenses, providing them with false statements, and a host of other grievances.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database shows that Hancock became a licensed advisor in 2000, and her company, Hancock-Smith, was based in Dallas.

The Texas State Securities Board said in a statement Tuesday that the crimes “allegedly occurred pursuant to a scheme that lasted more than five years.”

The state securities commissioner had already revoked her registration as an investment adviser representative in 2016, the TSSB said.

“The revocation was entered after the Securities Commissioner found Hancock engaged in significant misconduct – including appropriating money from clients that far exceeded her allowable annual fee,” the agency said. “For example, according to the order, Hancock withdrew $1.6 million from a single client’s account over a period of around two years – representing more than $1.5 million in excess of the fee structure.”

The commissioner also found at that time, the order revoking her registration said, that Hancock had allegedly taken steps to hide her scheme, providing fake invoices that misrepresented client account balances.

According to the order, Hancock admitted that she made loans to Traveler Overseas Holdings, a company that shared office space with her, but that she failed to provide documentation of that loan.

Hancock once owned a home that was featured in the 2010 Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society home tour, a home that, according to a Dallas Morning News article, she had purchased three years earlier. According to Dallas Central Appraisal District records, she sold the home sometime in 2016.

She now owns an interior design firm. A website for the company said that Hancock founded the company in May 2017, “when it came time to make a career pivot from finance.”

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, and it was investigated by the enforcement division of the TSSB. It is unclear if Hancock has been in custody.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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