Former Twin Cities nonprofit employee pleads guilty to fraud conspiracy

A former employee of a Twin Cities nonprofit pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said 49-year-old Aishia Renee Bell entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. A total of 12 defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy.

According to Bell's guilty plea and court documents, from November 2014 through February 2019, Bell, an employee of a Twin Cities nonprofit, devised and participated in a scheme to defraud her employer of charitable funds intended to help the homeless.

As part of the scheme, the attorney's office said Bell recruited an individual to pose as a vendor providing services to fictitious homeless clients and then directed the person to submit fraudulent IRS forms, lease agreements and check requests that falsely claimed to provide housing to homeless clients.

Bell and a co-conspirator submitted the fraudulent check requests and documents to the nonprofit to have checks issued, and from 2014 through 2017, caused the transmission of about 69 fraudulent check requests from the nonprofit to its bank for a total of about $166,785.

The attorney's office said Bell also attempted to conceal the full scope of the conspiracy by making false statements to law enforcement and attempting to dissuade her co-conspirator from cooperating with law enforcement.