PACE Omaha responds to federal indictments of former executive director
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - New information from federal indictments reveals that PACE, or Police Athletics for Community Engagement, is a small part in an otherwise extensive case involving an Omaha city council member, two former Omaha Police officers, and a fundraiser.
Documents show that former Omaha Police Captain and past PACE executive director Richard Gonzalez allegedly defrauded the organization of about $9,500, a fraction of the fraud conspiracy related to funds collected for the Latino Peace Officers Association.
Lance Jones, chairman of the PACE Omaha board, made the distinction between the two organizations and other defendants clear.
“I don’t know three of the defendants, don’t know them personally,” he said. “In fact, one of them I just saw his face for the first time Friday, so we’re a completely separate organization. Most of the allegations in the indictment were made against the other organization (LPOA).”
“These allegations against the former executive director are about his actions and not the PACE organization.”
Tony Espejo founded the organization nearly two decades ago and stepped up as the interim executive director for PACE when Gonzalez resigned in January.
“How did this happen?” said Espejo. “I think something like this can happen anywhere, anytime. It’s about trust. It’s about people doing the right thing and doing their job the right way. Right? When it happened to us it affected our community and our kids.”
In December, Mayor Jean Stothert pulled funding from PACE after learning it was involved in a federal investigation.
After reviewing the indictments Friday, she said it’s a clear sign that PACE as an organization was taken advantage of.
“In the coming weeks, I intend to meet with the PACE Board and leadership to determine the best plan to continue the city’s cooperation with PACE.”
The mayor has not yet said if funding would be restored. With no guaranteed money from the city, PACE must adjust.
“I would like to be able to offer more kids this opportunity, but because of what’s going on, we have to live within our means, like anybody does,” said Espejo.
Summer sports are still on the agenda. He said there are still spots – although limited – to sign up for free summer activities with PACE on its website.
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