Neighbors react to former anti-gang program director's fraud conviction - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Neighbors react to former anti-gang program director's fraud conviction

Lawton_She was trusted by neighbors, elected officials, and the federal government. Now many people are still trying to understand why the former director of an anti-gang program in Lawton was stealing money right in front of their eyes.

Seven News was the first tell you on Friday that Pat Paige, one time director of Lawton's "Weed and Seed" program and the outreach center has been convicted of 13 counts of felony fraud for misusing federal grant money. Prosecutors say the charges include fraud, money laundering and lying to authorities.

Former Neighborhood Watch Captain Helen Bosch says she had no idea Paige was hiding such a dark secret from them all. She said now neighbors are left with nothing, trying to turn the neighborhood around by themselves.

"Yes, she took some things away from us, she took some pride away from us too," Bosch said. "This was federal money, it was everybody's money, not her money."

The Department of Justice approved the Lawton Outreach Center for a total of $275,000 in federal grants. But, when the books were audited and the figures didn't add up, they launched a federal investigation. "The FBI wanted to talk to some of us, and it was a shock," Bosch said, "because we didn't know what was going on, because we had nothing to do with the money ourselves, that was handled by the office."

During an interview in 2003, Paige denied the accusations and tried to cover the discrepancies in her bookkeeping. "The program, there's a lot involved when it comes to weed and seed, ok?" Paige said. "It's not a matter of just getting funds and doing what you want with it, there's a lot involved, it's a collaborative."

When the investigation began, the officials who provided that grant money said the center needed a new fiscal agent -- stating the center wasn't meeting all the requirements. Still Paige pointed the finger in a different direction, not only lying to investigators, but also to us. "One of the things we are looking at is hiring a bookkeeper to handle the books," she said, "and that way I don't have to do that and everything else that we do here at the center."

The investigation unearthed paige had committed wire fraud and money laundering -- and that she had lied to officials during the entire investigation. Now she has been charged with 13 felonies -- and the Lawton neighborhoods are left back where they started. "We need to be neighbors again, and work as neighbors, keep an eye out for one another," Bosch said.

Bosch says they still have a Neighborhood Watch Program -- but it's all based on volunteers. She says neighbors are cleaning up the area by themselves through the "Citizens on Patrol" program run by the police department.

Pat Paige faces up to 30 years in prison for that conviction of 13 felonies. She's set to be formally sentenced in a few months.

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