HAUPPAGUE, NY (CBSNewYork) – People on Long Island thought they were buying fancy jewelry to help a good cause, but officials say it was all a fraud.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports

The jewelry looks very real, but in reality it was all fake, according to Suffolk County district attorney Thomas Spota.

Spota told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan that Mary Ann Bell pretended to run the Port Jefferson food pantry, but that in reality she defrauded dozens of people in an effort to line her own pockets.

“The food bank is a not for profit organization. She laundered the money through the account for her own personal needs. Paying for her home, mortgages, cars, jewelry–‘real jewelry!’- vacations,” he said.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports

She claimed she was selling authentic Tiffany jewelry that had a few flaws, so the prices were discounted and all the money was going to help the hungry and homeless.

Fake jewelry allegedly for sale by Mary Ann Bell - Hauppague, NY - Dec 21, 2011 (credit: Sophia Hall / WCBS 880)

Fake jewelry allegedly for sale by Mary Ann Bell - Hauppague, NY - Dec 21, 2011 (credit: Sophia Hall / WCBS 880)

But Spota said Bell pocketed about $450,000 in three years of selling the phony goods and she never gave the charity a dime.

“She did nothing as far as being director of the food pantry itself,” said Spota.

Spota said Bell used the money to pay her mortgage, take a trip to Disney and buy her own expensive and real gold diamond jewelry.

Bell’s family told CBS2 that she is suffering from health issues. Bell is scheduled to be arraigned on February 1st.

Have you had experience with a similar hoax in the past? Sound off in the comments section below…

Comments (4)
  1. Amy says:

    people ARE innocent until proven guilty. i’d suggest that in the spirit of Christmas, we reserve judgment. We do not know her life. We cannot condemn her with SO little facts, or do so without expecting to be judged as harshly. Cast the first stone? Take the hate and turn it opportunity. where one member of society errs, can’t the rest of us PICK UP THE SLACK and donate-donate-donate… or shall we just sit here and do nothing while we yelp our righteous indignation? We do NOT know the facts. We know media. please, reserve judgment. She is a mother. She is a human. If this IS true, a 69 year old women will pay a debt to society.

    1. Michele says:

      Although I haven’t seen her in many years, I know from back then that Mary Ann Bell did a lot of very genuine and inspired volunteer work. If these allegations are true, something must have changed for her that threw her off track. More importantly, as the first commenter wrote, we don’t even know what’s true and what’s not.

  2. Alexandra Besso says:

    That is absolutely despicable! She should be ashamed of herself!

    1. John says:

      Equally as despicable is the fact its only a class E Felony and she will do very little time (if any) and pay back very little (if anything) for all the wrong she has done. Sociopath’s don’t have a sense of shame, it’s what makes them unique.

Leave a Reply to Alexandra Besso Cancel reply