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"Pastor Banks" arrested on charges of fraud

The founder of a St. Petersburg halfway house was arrested this week on charges of defrauding investors and a federal substance abuse treatment program out of as much as $50,000.

Police say Patrick Jay Banks, 49, concocted an elaborate scheme that enabled him to obtain federal funds for his Agape House in 2011 despite convictions for robbery and forgery.

The six-foot, 300-pound Pennsylvania native, who called himself "Pastor Banks,'' was among the subjects of a Tampa Bay Times investigation that last year revealed many halfway houses are run by felons and drug dealers.

Authorities say Banks twice took improper advantage of Access to Recovery, a federal program that pays for transitional housing and treatment for recovering addicts and alcoholics.

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.

In what investigators later called the "most egregious case of fraud, waste and abuse'' by any ATR provider in Florida, Banks submitted bills for residents long before they set foot inside House of Hope.

He also billed for job coaching for up to 50 people at a time even thought the meeting room held less than 10.

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

Yet in 2011, Banks became involved with another St. Petersburg halfway house, Agape House, and again qualified for Access to Recovery funds. According to an arrest affidavit, the alleged scheme worked like this:

Using forged documents, Banks tricked private investors into giving him money on behalf of Agape House.

And Banks kept his name off paperwork so his criminal history would not prevent him from collecting federal 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, the affidavit said.

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

Agape House was dissolved as a corporation on April 12, state records show.

Halfway houses aren't Banks' only real estate ventures.

In a 2011 civil case, a judge ordered Banks to return the deeds to four St. Petersburg properties he had transferred to himself without the knowledge of the true owners.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at