For release on June 6, 2013
Vishal Bathija, Deputy District Attorney
Major Fraud Unit
A 61-year-old Hawaiian woman will be sentenced to four years in prison after pleading this week to stealing over $400,000 from her employer. Theo Lani Bell siphoned the money from a Santa Clara County-based non-profit that provides low-income housing for the developmentally disabled, people with AIDS and the elderly.
Bell, of Kamuela, Hawaii, pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft, two counts of tax fraud and admitted a white collar excessive taking enhancement. Bell will be sentenced on July 9, before the Hon. Philip Pennypacker.
“Ms. Bell used her guile and position to steal funds intended to help some of the Bay Area’s neediest communities,” Deputy District Attorney Vishal Bathija said. “These types of crimes are particularly damaging to non-profit organizations and put a significant strain on their limited budgets intended to help those in legitimate need.”
From 2004 until 2009, Bell faked hundreds of documents and created elaborate stories to convince Housing for Independent People (HIP) to pay for extensive and unneeded plumbing repairs to an Oakland property, which houses a homeless shelter.
To do so, Bell pretended to have purchased specialized plumbing materials from a local hardware store. HIP reimbursed Bell, who paid for the cost from her personal credit card. Bell is suspected to have pocketed the money.
Her scheme was discovered in 2009 when someone else took over supervision of the particular building and discovered that the repairs were not needed. The hardware store not only didn’t carry the “specialized” parts Bell had ordered but it had never done any business with her at all. Bell resigned that same year.
Bell was arrested by local authorities at her family’s horse and cattle ranch on the island of Hawaii late last year and brought back to Santa Clara County.
The case was investigated by the D.A.’s Bureau of Investigations and the California Franchise Tax Board.   ###

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