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Kamuela Woman Sentenced to Four Years in California Prison

July 10, 2013, 4:38 PM HST
* Updated July 10, 4:56 PM
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A California judge on Tuesday sentenced a 62-year-old Kamuela woman to four years in a California prison for stealing more than $405,000 from a non-profit agency that assists the homeless.

Theo Lani Bell admitted to the thefts last month as she pleaded no contest to two counts of state income tax fraud and a single count of grand theft with a white-collar crime enhancement.

From 2004 until 2009, while living in Santa Clara County, Bell falsified hundreds of documents and created elaborate stories to convince her employer to pay for extensive and unneeded plumbing repairs to an Oakland, Calif. homeless shelter, said John Barrett, spokesman for the California Franchise Tax Board.

The scheme was discovered when another employee took over management of the property and found none of the repairs were needed or had been completed.

The Santa Clara County-based agency from which Bell siphoned the money also provides low-cost housing for the developmentally disabled, people with AIDS and the elderly, Barrett said.

Bell admitted filing false California income tax returns for 2006 through 2008 in which she failed to report more than $328,000 in embezzled income.

Barnett noted that all income is taxable, including that from illegal sources.

Bell was arrested in December by Big Island police at her family’s horse and cattle ranch in Waimea and taken back to California.

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Philip Pennypacker on Tuesday also ordered Bell to pay more than $71,000 to the state of California for the unpaid tax, penalties, interest and the cost of the investigation, Barrett said.

The investigation was a joint effort by the Franchise Tax Board’s Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

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