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St. Petersburg Halfway House Founder Charged with Fraud

Patrick Jay Banks, the founder of a St. Petersburg halfway house, was arrested last week on charges of defrauding investors and a federal substance abuse treatment program out of as much as $50,000. Police allege Banks cooked up an elaborate scheme to obtain federal funds for Agape House in 2011, despite the fact that he has convictions for robbery and forgery.

Banks, who referred to himself "Pastor Banks," purportedly took improper advantage of Access to Recovery, a federal program that pays for transitional housing and treatment for recovering addicts and alcoholics, on two separate occasions. After his release from a Texas prison in the 1990s, Banks started House of Hope in St. Petersburg and applied for Access to Recovery funds using others' names.

Authorities now claim Banks submitted bills for residents long before they set foot inside House of Hope and for job coaching for up to 50 people at a time, despite the fact that the facility's meeting room held fewer than 10 people.

Banks collected more than $110,000 before he was permanently barred from the federal program in 2007.

In 2011, however, Banks became involved with another St. Petersburg halfway house, Agape House. He again qualified for Access to Recovery funds.

According to an arrest affidavit, Banks used forged documents to convince private investors to give money to Agape House. Banks' name did not appear on any paperwork, as his criminal history would have prohibited him from collecting Access to Recovery funds. About $50,000 was deposited in the Agape House account, but Banks withdrew several thousand dollars with money orders made out to himself and transferred more funds to his Texas bank account.

Banks, charged with felony scheming to defraud, was arrested and released on a $10,000 bond.

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