Jeff Belle in his home office.
By John Crowder & Allen Payton
Jeff Belle, a candidate running for the position of Governing Board Member for Area 5 of the Contra Costa County Board of Education (CCCBOE) against incumbent Cynthia Ruehlig, has responded to allegations that he has a criminal past, has made false statements regarding his education, and has engaged in medical-related practices without being properly licensed, mainly by accusing one of his ex-wives, Casey Jones, of New Mexico, of herself being a con artist with a vendetta against him. Belle also held a media event on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, at a gazebo on the grounds of the Antioch Historical Society. Though he called the event a press conference, he repeatedly refused to answer questions about his past after reading a prepared statement.
However, in a follow-up interview on Sunday, October 26, Belle finally gave more of a detailed explanation.
Recent articles in the local news media have indicated a long history of legal problems, both civil and criminal, for Belle. Interviews conducted by the Herald with law enforcement personnel and research of public records in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and California confirm Belle’s legal entanglements.
According to Celina Espinoza, Public Information Officer with the Santa Fe, New Mexico, Police Department, Belle was arrested in Santa Fe on December 31, 2007. According to Espinoza, Belle was picked up on a “fugitive from justice” warrant. The outstanding warrant was issued by the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma County, for a fraud case. Belle was booked into the Santa Fe Adult Detention Center, where he awaited extradition to Oklahoma.
Both he and Jones agree that she set him up for the arrest, by luring Belle back from California under the false pretense of getting back together, just a month after they were divorced, on New Year’s Eve, 2007, after being married for just 87 days.
Matt Steadman, an investigator with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office, remembers Belle being extradited to Oklahoma. Steadman referred us to oscn.net (Oklahoma Supreme Courts Network), where a records search lists thirteen entries, from 1991 through 2002, both civil and criminal cases, involving Belle. For example, a criminal felony case for an offense dated 8/29/1992 involved one charge of “obtaining money or property by means of a false and bogus check.” Another criminal case for an offense dated 5/29/1997, to which Belle pleaded guilty, is for the same charge. A civil case, filed 4/24/92, involved indebtedness. Another case filed 8/29/1997 was for “forcible entry and detainer,” an action taken by a landlord in order to evict a tenant who has not paid rent, or for some other breach of contract. Other records concern more cases involving indebtedness, and marriage and divorce from two different women in Oklahoma. At his press conference, Belle admitted to one of the bad check charges, but said he does not write checks any more.
Belle has also come under fire for making false claims regarding his education. For example, at one time he claimed to have obtained a Ph.D. From Harrington University, in London. The “school” is well-documented as a diploma mill, where, according to some reports, degrees could be obtained for as little as $1400, and have even been handed out to pet dogs and cats. During his October 22 press conference, however, Belle admitted he did not have a Ph.D.
Belle has repeatedly given conflicting statements regarding his education. On his application to serve as Antioch’s representative to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority – Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CCTA-CAC), received by the Antioch City Clerk’s office on July 30, 2013, Belle states that he is scheduled to complete a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) in 2014 from Grand Canyon University. On his Linked-in profile, though, he states that he received his MPA from American Public University System in 2014. At the media event he held on October 22, Belle admitted he has no Master’s Degree.
Also on the CCTA-CAC application, Belle states that he has a BS in Political Science from Oklahoma City University / American Public University.
A different statement appears on his linked-in profile, where he says that he obtained that degree from Oklahoma City University in 1988. But, according to The Office of the Registrar at Oklahoma City University, although Belle did attend the school, and did study political science, he did not receive a degree from them. At the media event he held on October 22, Belle was repeatedly asked by CBS Channel 5 television reporter Da Lin whether or not he had a Bachelor’s degree at all. Belle, at one point, mentioned having obtained a Bachelor’s degree from “Biosystems Institute,” but then quickly backpedaled, and refused to address the question further.
Belle claims he earned an Associates degree in Respiratory Care and graduated in 1980 from Biosystems Institute in Phoenix, AZ. He is registered as an Advanced Respiratory Therapist, the highest level possible in that field, which requires you to pass three national board exams, which Belle did November 22, 1980 in 1984 and the last one in 1996. He has his credentials from the National Board of Respiratory Care.
Belle explained that Oklahoma City University works with American University in a program called the Washington Semester, the hours from which applied to his degree in Political Science.
“I still owe American University for room and board for that semester of almost $3,000,” Belle claimed. “However, in 1989 I walked in the graduation, and they acknowlege it, but they won’t confer the degree, until then.”
“I don’t have to take any more courses,” he added. “That’s why I’m able to take the Master’s degree program in Public Administration, with an emphasis in Health Policy and Public Policy, from the American Public University System.”
“I have a 3.74 GPA, as of today,” he stated. “I’ve completed all of my course work. Starting in January, I will be completing my Master’s thesis, which is all I need to graduate.”
Belle also claims, on both his CCTA-CAC application and on his linked-in profile to have a certificate in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, which, according to his posted profile, he obtained from 2012-2013 after completing an eight-week, online course. He also took another eight-week online course in the summer of 2012, earning him a certificate from University of Pennsylvania in Health Policy & The Affordable Care Act.
Employment & Career
When he came to California in December, 2007 Belle says he was under contract to the Veterans Administration to work in pulminary diagnostics at the VA Hospital in Martinez.
“When you’re working at a federal facility, you’re not required to have a license from the state you’re in, just a license from any state in the nation,” Belle said. “I decided to maintain my Oregon license, which I had. Otherwise they would have never hired me.
When his contract expired two years, later he start his own company.
Belle formed Respiratory Clinical Institute, LLC to place students in hospitals, contracted with licensed therapists in hospitals to train them, and to tutor them at his office. He was not seeing patients at the hospital, so he was not practicing medicine.
However, on June 20, 2014, Belle was cited by the Respiratory Care Board of California for “misrepresenting himself as a respiratory care practitioner and engaging in the practice of respiratory care without a current and valid license in California.” He was ordered to “immediately cease and desist any and all unlicensed activities pursuant to the Respiratory Care Practice Act” and ordered to pay a fine of $8,200 for violating provisions of the Act. At his media event, Belle claimed the fine was inappropriate, and the result of an unfair interpretation by the Respiratory Care Board.
He has a hearing on the matter with California, next April.
Belle says he doesn’t need a license to mentor or tutor students. So, the issue is in dispute.
But, he is licensed in Oregon and have been in six other states, in the past. They expire in two years if you don’t keep paying the fees.
On his Facebook page he claims to be a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy and Leadership Development which is under the umbrella of the Political Leadership Institute, based in North Carolina and have a contract with Belle to help set up a civic and community engagement institute at Los Medanos College, where he plans to locate the new institute. He says he has been in negotiations.
Herald staff made repeated requests, of Belle in an attempt to obtain an answer to the numerous allegations made against him. His response, until his media event, though, had been to send email statements regarding his aforementioned ex-wife. She created a website called “Women Against Con Men,” and wrote a book about her experience with about her life, as well as her experience with Belle, including her efforts to get him arrested in 2007.
In a statement released by Belle on Sunday, October 19, 2014, he says that Casey Jones, one of his ex-wives, and the woman who has made it her mission to expose his alleged wrongdoing, “boasts a checkered history,” and “continues to target and make the public believe that Jeffery Belle is a criminal and con-man.” He goes on to accuse her of conspiring with a “reputed con man to harass and intimidate his victims in California.” In a phone conversation with Jones, she volunteered that she suffered from a multiple personality disorder, but said that she had no criminal history and no judgments against her. Herald staff were unable to locate anything to the contrary.
An article referenced by Belle, which appeared online at the Santa Fe New Mexican website on December 30, 2012, details the crusade Jones has maintained against Belle for the last several years. In one part it reads, “You could label Jones an avenging angel for deceptive spouses, or an ex-wife from hell.” (See www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/abuse-survivor-shares-story-in-memoir.)
When asked in a recent interview why she continued to pursue Belle, seven years after they were divorced, Jones said, “I don’t care about Jeff Belle. I care about his victims.”
“I Google Jeff’s name, randomly a couple times a year,” she added.
The final thing she said was “I wish him well.”
That’s the same thing Belle said about Jones, in a press release following his media event, last week.
As noted above, Belle’s past has not prevented him from obtaining appointments to various county committees. At the August 13, 2013 meeting of the Antioch City Council, Belle was appointed to the CCTA-CAC on a unanimous, 4-0 vote.
Belle has also garnered appointments to the county’s Emergency Medical Care Committee and the Tobacco Prevention Coalition. In addition, Belle states that he was involved with the Dallas Ranch Middle School PTSA as the “legislative chair” for two years.
Recent Bad Check Allegation
In a recent news article, Belle’s campaign was accused of writing a bad check to the Antioch Historical Society for the rental of the gazebo for his press conference. Belle does not sign on the campain account, but his wife Carmen does.
In a brief interview, today, Carmen said there were funds in the account and that she had deposited a cashier’s check into the account, the same day she wrote the check to the Antioch Historical Society.
“I know that it takes a day for the funds to clear the account,” she said. “But we didn’t bounce the check. If they had deposited it into their account, it would have gone through, as it takes a few days to clear.”
“But, I immediately dropped what I was doing and went and paid cash,” Carmen added.
On a positive note, Belle said that his youngest son, Joseph, just graduated from Cambridge University in England, with a Master’s Degree in Music Composition.
“I’ve worked to inspire my children, as well as the students I’ve mentored and tutored, through the years, to be the very best and pursue excellence,” Belle stated. “I’ve made mistakes in the past. But, I’ve worked to live a life of an example and will continue to do so.”