Woman Convicted in $7M Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Scheme Charged Anew
By Joe Mandak | November 21, 2016
A woman who spent more than seven years in prison for a $7 million insurance fraud and the unrelated death of a patient at her now-defunct Pennsylvania nursing home is in trouble with the law again.
This time, the Allegheny County district attorney’s office says Martha Bell, 70, has swindled an 89-year-old man out of $322,000 by falsely telling him he could invest in Medicare “bed licenses” that she allegedly claimed to still control.
A criminal complaint Thursday alleges Bell spent the money at The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and The Meadows Racetrack & Casino south of the city, on furniture, purchases from Victoria’s Secret, restitution payments from her previous court cases and tax bills.
The West Mifflin woman’s attorney, James Paulick, didn’t immediately return a call for comment after Bell surrendered. She’s free on bond pending a preliminary hearing Dec. 1.
District attorney’s Detective Jackelyn Weibel alleged Bell contacted the man, whom she knew through a mutual friend, shortly after she was released from prison in early 2013.
Bell allegedly told the man she needed money to place liens against five nursing homes and another property she once controlled before her incarceration. The man told investigators Bell’s claims of how much money she needed kept increasing and she eventually told him if he loaned her money, she’d make him half owner of $3 million worth of Medicare “bed licenses” she claimed to still control.
Investigators determined that Bell no longer controls the licenses – they’re defunct, along with her former nursing home – and that the investment story was a ruse. The man allegedly wrote 33 checks totaling $332,000 to Bell.
Bell spent more than two years in state prison for the October 2001 death of an 88-year-old woman who wandered outside the now-shuttered Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Robinson Township. That woman, Mabel Taylor, died after she was locked outside for hours on a 40-degree night.
The death investigation led regulators to scrutinize the home and its parent company, the Alzheimer’s Disease Alliance of Western Pennsylvania, and led to federal Medicare and Medicaid fraud charges, which cost Bell an additional five more years in federal prison for collecting insurance money for services not rendered.
Bell was also convicted in 2008 in state court of stealing $51,500 in payroll money from the same nursing home, but her six- to 12-month jail sentence was imposed concurrently to the others so didn’t extend her incarceration.
At one point, while free on bond during the federal prosecution, Bell received permission from a judge to visit an Atlantic City casino for what her attorney called “rest and relaxation” over the objection of federal prosecutors.
'I've been a political prisoner': Woman denies scamming elderly man
Updated: 5:36 PM EST Nov 16, 2016
At 70 years old, Martha Bell has been out of prison for three years, but police say it took her no time to commit her next crime, and they say it's connected to the case that put her away.
Nearly 10 years ago, Bell was convicted for her role in the death of 88-year-old Mabel Taylor. Taylor was a patient at the Atrium Nursing and Rehabilitation Center,in Robinson, when she wandered outside into a courtyard on a cold night and died. Police said Bell and others tried to cover it up, putting Taylor in bed and claiming she died there.
Bell went to prison and was released in 2013, but was on probation when police say she committed her latest crime. And according to court papers, the victim again is elderly.
"I have been innocent of all charges, including the charges that I was incarcerated for," Bell said, from her West Mifflin home. "I've been apolitical prisoner."
Bell said she had no idea police filed the recent charges, until Pittsburgh's Action News 4 came to her door.
According to court papers, investigators have been to her home to ask about claims that she conned an 89-year-old man out out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Police said that almost immediately after Bell's release from prison in the previous case, she convinced the elderly man to write her 33 checks, totaling $322,300. The complaint reads that Bell claimed she had bed licenses to sell,from her time at the Atrium, and if the elderly man gave her a loan, she would share half of the $3 million she'd make on the sale. Instead, court papers say she spent that money at casinos. Bell denies it all.
Bell faces four felonies, including theft by unlawful taking and deceptive or fraudulent business practices. She has not yet been taken into custody.