PITTSBURGH (AP) — 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.