A South Australian MP allegedly stole money from not-for-profit educational organisations and used it to fund renovations at his family home along with credit card debts, a court has heard.

Troy Stephen Bell, 50, is standing trial in the District Court after pleading not guilty to 20 counts of theft and six counts of dishonest dealing with documents.

In her opening address on Tuesday, prosecutor Jemma Litster said Mr Bell had used his position of power to “syphon” money meant for a program to keep “at-risk” youth who had disengaged from mainstream education in training programs.

She said the alleged offending began in 2009 after Mr Bell, who was employed by the Department for Education, helped to establish and run the Independent Learning Centre (ILC) in Mount Gambier in 2006.

The prosecution says the alleged offending had gone unnoticed because Mr Bell was “well-liked”.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Alleged fraud ‘went on unnoticed for quite some time’

Ms Litster said the ILC was established to help children who had “become disengaged with mainstream schooling and who had returned, through the centre, in order to give them opportunities to obtain their SACE or other qualifications” which was run through a sub-campus of Millicent High School.

She said the alleged offending had gone unnoticed because he was “well-liked” and “trusted in his professional and social circle”.

“It’s the prosecution case he abused that trust,” she said.

“The view people held of him from the outside looking in, was one of the factors his fraud went on unnoticed for quite some time.”

She said it was alleged that funds he stole were those that were intended to be used for the purpose of not-for-profit associations in the south-east, which invoiced Millicent High School to fund the ILC.

Troy Bell is a South Australian MP.(Supplied)

“The first of those was called the South-East Education and Training Association, referred to as SEETA, the second, the Limestone Coast Education and Training Association, referred to as LCETA,” she said.

The alleged offending continued until 2013 when he quit to pursue a career in politics.

“On the prosecution case, the funds which Mr Bell stole, were the funds which in many cases were deposited or transferred into accounts he personally had set up,” she said.

“He had received those monies into those bank accounts on behalf of those not-for-profit associations.”

Ms Litster said Mr Bell’s “charismatic and persuasive” personality and the ILC’s “visible success” meant there was “no cause or interest to scrutinise” the invoices he issued.

She said the invoices issued were “lacking in detail”, including a general description of staff wages, administration fees, and salaries of people being employed in the future.

Financial circumstances may explain alleged theft, court hears

The jury was told Mr Bell had an “opportunity to steal” the funds “without it capturing anyone’s attention”.

Ms Litster said it was alleged Mr Bell, who had been a teacher and later, assistant principal at Grant High School in Mt Gambier, “used the money for his own purposes rather than being used for any educational purpose”.

Some of the money, she said, was moved into the account Mr Bell shared with his wife, Michaela.

Ms Litster said he was “becoming particularly financial ambitious” in mid 2009, around the time of the purchase of his family home.

A jury of 15 people will hear evidence over an estimated four months.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“In particular, Mr Bell had taken on significant debt in the form of bank loans to finance property development at various addresses in Mt Gambier … as well as the purchase and refurbishment of the Bell family home,” she said.

“Mr Bell was moving funds consistently between his loan and personal accounts to settle debts.”

She said loans had been taken out “to pay off other loans”.

“It’s the prosecution case that all of the financial circumstances in the lead up to the allegations are relevant to explain why theft may have occurred.”

A jury of 15 people, who were empanelled on Monday, will hear evidence over an estimated four months. The trial is continuing.

Posted , updated