ShareThis Page

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An investigation found the bed licenses Bell once controlled are no longer valid.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 Some money the victim loaned her was withdrawn at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane and at The Rivers Casino on the North Shore, according to the complaint.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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.