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Former nursing home administrator charged with swindling 89-year-old man

Tony Raap
| Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

A West Mifflin woman who served more than seven years in prison for insurance fraud and the unrelated death of a patient at a now-defunct nursing home has been charged for what police say was a $322,200 swindle of an 89-year-old man.

The Allegheny County district attorney's office said Martha Bell, 70, falsely told the man he could invest in Medicare “bed licenses” that she allegedly claimed to still control.

A bed license allows a nursing home to do business in Pennsylvania and is administered by the state Department of Health.

Bell told the victim she owned about 120 bed licenses, which she planned to sell for $25,000 apiece, totaling $3 million, according to a criminal complaint. She told the man she needed money to complete the sale, and he agreed to loan her $322,200.

An investigation found the bed licenses Bell once controlled are no longer valid.

Bell's attorney, James Paulick, had no comment.

Detectives reviewed Bell's bank records after obtaining a search warrant. Some money the victim loaned her was withdrawn at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane and at The Rivers Casino on the North Shore, according to the complaint.

“Every time the victim asked for his money to be repaid, (Bell) had a different excuse as to why she couldn't pay him back,” the complaint states.

Bell was arraigned Thursday on charges of theft by deception, receiving stolen property and deceptive or fraudulent business practices. She was released on non-monetary bail and faces a preliminary hearing Dec. 1, court records show.

Bell had founded and served as administrator of the now-defunct Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Robinson.

She spent more than two years in prison for the October 2001 death of an 88-year-old woman who wandered outside the nursing home on a 40-degree night and died. Bell was convicted in 2007 of involuntary manslaughter, neglect of a care-dependent person, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.

The death investigation led to the Medicare fraud charges, which cost Bell five more years in prison.

She was released from prison in 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7827 or traap@tribweb.com.

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