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Hawaii Woman Sentenced To Four Years State Prison for State Income Tax Fraud and Grand Theft

A former resident of Santa Clara County was sentenced today to four years in state prison on two felony counts of state income tax fraud and one felony count of grand theft with a white collar crime enhancement.

Theo Lani Bell, 62, of Kamuela, Hawaii, pleaded no contest after she admitted to stealing more than $405,000 from her employer in California. 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.

From 2004 until 2009, Bell falsified hundreds of documents and created elaborate stories to convince her former employer to pay for extensive and unneeded plumbing repairs to an Oakland property, which houses a homeless shelter. The scheme was discovered when another employee took over management of the property and discovered none of the repairs were necessary or completed.

In addition, Bell filed false state personal income tax returns for 2006 through 2008, and failed to report the more than $328,000 in embezzled income. All income is taxable including income from illegal sources.

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.

Bell was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $71,000 to the state representing the unpaid tax, penalties, interest, and the cost of the investigation.

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Philip Pennypacker handed down the sentence in Department 23 of the Santa Clara Superior Court. Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Vishal Bathija of the major fraud unit prosecuted the case. This was a joint investigation between the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and the Franchise Tax Board’s Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Our criminal investigation program identifies and investigates cases of tax evasion and tax fraud to encourage compliance with California tax laws and maintain the public trust.

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