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Charity queen Natalie Bell charged with stealing Charity Money

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 from prison.

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 years.

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.

Michael McKenna
November 28, 2006

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