DA: Hawaiian Grandma Steals $400K From Disabled

A Hawaiian grandma has been charged with stealing more than $400,000 from a Milpitas nonproift that provides housing for the poor, sick, elderly and disabled by faking unnecessary plumbing problems.

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Christina Garcia-Sen said on Thursday that Theo Lani Bell, 62, is now in custody on charges of defrauding Housing for Independent People for "extensive and unneeded" plumbing repairs to an Oakland property, which houses a homeless shelter. Sen said that Bell would submit requests for payment from the  housing nonprofit that she charged on her own credit card, and would allegedly pocket the reiumbursement money.

Sen said that investigators are still trying to determine what she used the money for.

The charges stem from 2004 to 2009, when she worked at the housing center.

Bell was discovered in 2009 when a new supervisor came on board and discovered the repairs weren't necessary. The hardware store didn't carry the "specialized" parts Bell had ordered, according to prosecutors, and had never done any business with her.

Bell resigned that same year.

Bell was arrested in Hawaii several months ago on the island of Hawaii at her family's cattle ranch, and brought back to Santa Clara county by DA investigator Norm Levy this week.

She had already been arraigned on felony charges of grand theft and tax violations. She was unavailable for immediate comment, and it wasn't immediately clear if she was being represented by an attorney.

The Housing for Independent People is based in Milpitas with an office in Berkeley, too. HIP serves low income people with developmental disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, people with AIDS and the elderly. It's annual budget is $3.1 million, which comes from tenant rental income and donations, according to its website. A spokesperson there wasn't available for immediate comment.

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