East Hawaii News

Big Island Woman Indicted for Stealing From California Charity

January 10, 2013, 5:39 PM HST
* Updated January 11, 4:38 PM
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***Updated on Jan. 11 with clarification, additional details.***

A Big Island woman has been indicted in California for allegedly defrauding a nonprofit agency in that state out of more than $400,000, several news outlets there are reporting.

The San Jose Mercury News today said that Theo Lani Bell was scheduled to enter a plea Monday to charges of felony grand theft and multiple tax violations.

According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Bell, 62, was involved in a five-year scheme in which she allegedly falsified repair orders for an Oakland, Calif. homeless shelter and pocketed reimbursement payments from her employer, Housing for Independent People.

Bell was a facilities administrator for the Milpitas, Calif.-based organization which provides assistance to people with developmental disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, people with AIDS and the elderly, NBC Bay Area reported.

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Bell’s alleged ploy fell apart in 2009 when a new supervisor for the nonprofit found that the repairs were not necessary. Bell resigned soon after, the television affiliate said on its website where Bell was described as a “Hawaiian Grandma.”

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The Mercury News said that after building the case against Bell, prosecutors  traveled to her family’s horse and cattle ranch on the Big Island. Bell, a Waimea resident, was arrested by Big Island police on Dec. 12.

She was taken back to Santa Clara County, where she remains in custody.

Bell faces a maximum of nine years in prison, the Mercury News said.

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