Sentencing of former housing director postponed

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The sentencing of former Ferriday Housing Authority Director Charles Bell has been postponed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Hathaway said Monday.

Bell’s sentencing on charges of misappropriation of funds was originally set for Monday but was delayed due to objections Bell’s attorneys had to a pre-sentencing report ordered by the court.

&uot;We should know later this week&uot; when U.S. District Judge F.A. Little Jr. will reschedule Bell’s sentencing hearing, Hathaway said.

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Bell was indicted Oct. 1 by a federal grand jury on four counts of theft and bribery for using federal funds for his personal use.

Bell pleaded guilty in December and could receive a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

The case stemmed from a June 2001 report released by Louisiana Legislative Auditor Dan alleging that Bell had misappropriated more than $218,169 in public funds from 1996 through 2000.

That money was spent on everything from a home entertainment system to a boat to adult online services to health food, the report stated.

As a result of those charges, Bell was fired Nov. 14 by the authority’s Board of Commissioners.

A grand jury indictment against Bell charged Bell &uot;fraudulently obtained property valued at $165,220 or more (and owned or controlled by) the FHA, and converted it to his use.&uot;

According to the Kyle’s report, between 1996 and 2000, Bell allegedly:

Used $52,843 in public funds to pay personal expenses.

Converted $28,439 of public funds to money orders and cashier’s checks for his own use.

Used $6,427 to buy a stereo and entertainment system.

Along with authority employee Katina Washington, failed to deposit $4,400 of public funds.

Authorized the payment of $4,100 to individuals for work that may not have been performed or should have been performed during regular work hours.

Paid two people a total of $6,528 for maintenance work &045; but deposited $5,000 of that amount into the account of the nonprofit Concordia Housing Development Organization instead of paying the money to those individuals.

Submitted false billings to the authority amounting to $42,962.

Paid himself $54,463 from the nonprofit to which he was not entitled. Bell stated that while employed by the authority, he never received a salary from any other employer or organization.

Donated $18,007 in public funds to various entities in violation of Article 7, Section 14 of the Louisiana Constitution.

Bell denied most of the allegations in a written response that was released as part of the auditor’s report but said he was not allowed enough time to respond to the charges in full.