- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2016

The District reached a settlement Thursday to allow a former felon to continue working with city youth in violence-prevention efforts, despite his role in the misuse of thousands of dollars in D.C. grants.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said that Ronald Moten, co-founder of the now-defunct Peaceoholics gang-mediation group, will pay $10,000 to the District and will receive stricter financial oversight by city officials in future anti-crime endeavors.

Mr. Moten has been a great asset in empowering our community’s youth, and should be able to utilize those skills, especially at a time when our city’s young people could use his talents,” Mr. Racine said in a statement. “It’s time for Mr. Moten to be cleared to do what he does best — mentor, guide, advocate and inspire our youth.”

Under the settlement, Mr. Moten did not admit to any wrongdoing, but he is barred from managing the finances of any organizations he may lead.

“We believe we have put sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure what happened at Peaceoholics does not happen again,” Mr. Racine said.

Founded in 2004, Peaceoholics garnered widespread attention and praise for helping reconcile disputes between rival gangs in the 2000s, and received grants for its anti-violence work.

In 2013, the city’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Mr. Moten and co-founder Jauhar Abraham for submitting a fraudulent tax return in the group’s applications for $180,000 in grant money from the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp.

In 2014, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled against Peaceoholics and Mr. Abraham, requiring them to repay $638,989 of grant funds that had been used to buy two luxury SUVs and a certificate of deposit.

Mr. Racine said Mr. Moten was not involved in the purchases and did not personally gain from the diverted money, explaining the reason for his lesser settlement.

He said Mr. Moten now can help at-risk young people secure the opportunities and resources to “develop into contributing members of our community.”

But Mr. Moten said he has continued his work in the District despite the financial mismanagement scandal.

“I never stopped, I just couldn’t do it on the same magnitude,” Mr. Moten told The Washington Times.

Today, Mr. Moten, who spent four years in prison in the mid-1990s for drug convictions, is working with the Jack Kemp Foundation and the D.C.-based Contemporary Family Services, a nonprofit that helps families and at-risk youth link up with social services programs.

“Now I don’t have to manage the money, so I can do what I do well,” he said.

And what Mr. Moten does well, he said, is connecting young people with options outside of a life of crime.

“We can’t just respond. We need to have relationships with these people,” he said. “I get calls and warning signs.”

Noting that recent anti-crime legislation would provide more mental health services for at-risk persons, Mr. Moten said city youths also need someone they can relate to who can help them get the assistance they need.

“They need mental health services, but they need to hear that from someone who can talk to them,” he said. “You get bit by the snake and you can get the antidote from the snake.”

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