A CONVICTED fraud who conned her way into executive
positions on five Queensland charities has been charged with
stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Natalie Bell, 34, was the consummate charity queen in and around
Brisbane for the past five years, raising funds and running the
offices of not-for-profit organizations serving prisoners, the
mentally ill and homeless youth.
But unknown to several of the charities and their many high-profile
patrons was that Ms Bell had been released from prison in 2000 after
serving 2 1/2 years for fraud and misappropriation.
Police yesterday refused to detail the charges or allegations
against Ms Bell because the "investigation is still on-going".
It is understood that all five charities are working with police,
with several engaging forensic accountants to audit their books in
light of the investigation.
Several of the charities receive hundreds of thousands of dollars
every year from the state and commonwealth governments.
One of the organizations, Sisters Inside, confirmed yesterday that
Ms Bell was facing charges after allegedly stealing more than
$100,000 from the prison advocacy group's coffers.
Ms Bell joined Sisters Inside almost immediately after her release
Sisters Inside founder and director Debbie Kilroy said she was aware
of Ms Bell's criminal history and had given her a "second chance"
job as the human resources manager.
Ms Kilroy said Ms Bell had since made admissions to police about
stealing the money - allegedly in $4000 installments over three
The admissions were made after irregularities were discovered in the
accounts of the advocacy group, which exists on about $1 million in
annual funding from taxpayers and public donations.
"She has now paid the money back; it is tragic for her," Ms Kilroy
said. "We believe in giving women a second chance and I don't regret
it; we don't write people off.
"We have since put more controls in the organization."
Sources said Ms Bell allegedly broke into one of the charities and
deleted emails after the police investigation was launched.
Ms Bell could not be contacted yesterday.
The other charities include the Youth Affairs Network of Queensland,
the Mental Health Association (Qld), the Brookred Centre and
Deception Bay Youth and Community organization.
November 28, 2006