Madison man sentenced for stealing more than $1 million from Huntsville non-profit

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –  Tuesday, a federal judge sentenced a former accountant with a Huntsville non-profit corporation to two and a half years in prison for defrauding the organization and the Internal Revenue Service.

Reggious Sanchester Bell, 30, of Madison was sentenced on one count of federal program theft for stealing more than $1 million from the Huntsville Rehabilitation Foundation, which does business as Phoenix.  He was also sentenced for two counts of federal income tax evasion for underreporting his income and underpaying his taxes for 2011 and 2012. Bell pleaded guilty to the charges in October.

Phoenix contracts with the government to place people with disabilities into government jobs.  Bell must pay $1.1 million in restitution to Phoenix, and to its insurers, $71,947 to Indemnity Insurance Co. and $75,000 to Hartford Underwriters Insurance Co.  Bell also must pay $81,768 to the IRS.

Reggious Sanchester Bell (Image: uah.edu)

Reggious Sanchester Bell (Image: uah.edu)

“This defendant stole more than $1 million of taxpayer funds from a non-profit company that contracts to provide jobs and counseling to people with disabilities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey. “He showed no regard for the harm he did the company he worked for or the people it served. He undercut a worthy mission so that he could spend money on personal indulgences, including gambling. I thank the IRS and the FBI for helping this office bring Mr. Bell to justice.”

“Reggious Bell’s actions can be described as greedy, callous, and shallow,” said Veronica Hyman-Pillot, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “He exploited the community and the government with no regard as he enriched himself with taxpayer funds. With today’s sentence, Bell faces the consequences for his criminal behavior.”

“Stealing money intended to help the disabled is disgraceful and beyond comprehension,” said Roger C. Stanton, FBI Special Agent in Charge. “The FBI will continue to work side by side with our partners to bring individuals like Bell to justice.”

Phoenix provides counseling for and places people with disabilities in administrative, manufacturing and custodial jobs. It received more than $20 million a year from 2011 through 2013 under contracts to perform custodial work at Redstone Arsenal.

According to court documents, Bell went to work for Phoenix in 2008 in its accounting department. He worked in accounts payable, accounts receivable and fixed assets management. As it did with other staff members, Phoenix provided Bell a credit card to use for business expenses only. Bell, however, began using his Phoenix credit card for personal expenses in at least 2009, and continued to do so until he was caught in the summer of 2013, according to his plea.

Bell’s personal charges during that time including $95,228 to Best Buy, $21,969 to Louis Vuitton, $18,945 to American Airlines, $23,823 to Southwest Airlines, $46,345 to Marriott Hotels, $19,268 to Renaissance Hotels and $20,706 to Dillard’s Department Store. Bell also had Phoenix issue a credit card in a fictitious name with a fictitious Social Security number, which he also used for personal expenses.

Bell deleted unauthorized purchases from the credit card monthly statements and manipulated Phoenix’s account ledgers so that they would balance with the bank’s spreadsheet that showed what Phoenix owed for its staf credit cards, according to the plea.

Bell also established an accounting firm, called Bell-Pete Associates. Although Phoenix never did any business with the firm, Bell invoiced Phoenix for $58,133 in accounting services in 2011, and for $235,740 in 2012, according to his plea. Bell did not report the fraudulent income to the IRS, resulting in an underpayment of taxes of $15,132 in 2011, and $66,636 in 2012.

The IRS and FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell E. Penfield prosecuted.