Lamor Whitehead, the flashy Brooklyn, NY, pastor who reported being robbed while preaching at his church in July, was arrested on federal charges Dec. 19 for allegedly defrauding a parishioner, attempting to extort a businessman, and lying to the FBI, according to a federal indictment.
Whitehead, who goes by “Bishop,” was charged with wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, attempted extortion, and making a material false statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York announced, CNN reported. The 45-year-old pastor faces up to 65 years in prison for his alleged crimes.
Whitehead is the pastor of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministry, which he founded in 2013. According to the feds, he allegedly defrauded one of his parishioners, 56-year-old Pauline Anderson, out of about $90,000 from her retirement savings. The indictment stated Whitehead promised the parishioner he would use her money to help her buy a home and invest the rest of the money, but instead, he used it “to purchase thousands of dollars of luxury goods and clothing” and “for his own purposes.”
Whitehead never helped her purchase a home and never returned her money despite her request, the feds said. Anderson sued the pastor in 2021.
In addition to that, it is also alleged Whitehead attempted to convince a businessman to loan him about $500,000 and grant him a stake in real estate transactions in exchange for obtaining “favorable actions by the New York City government” that would make them “millions.” It is publicly known that Whitehead is close to New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Earlier this year, Whitehead also allegedly used “threats of force” against that same businessman to extort $5,000 from him.
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Whitehead allegedly told FBI agents who were executing a search warrant that he had only one phone when in fact, he had a second phone. He is now accused of lying to the FBI.
“As we allege today, Lamor Whitehead abused the trust placed in him by a parishioner, bullied a businessman for $5,000, then tried to defraud him of far more than that, and lied to federal agents,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now.”
Whitehead has denied all of the allegations. His attorney, Dawn Florio, told CNN, “Bishop Lamor Whitehead is not guilty of these charges. We are vigorously defending these accusations and we feel he is being targeted, and being turned into a villain from a victim.”
In July, Whitehead said he was the victim of a robbery in which at least one masked and armed man entered Whitehead’s church and took jewelry from him and his wife. Part of the robbery was live streamed on the church’s website. Whitehead, who liked to wear designer suits and blinged-out jewelry, claimed the stolen jewelry was worth more than $1 million, which raised criticism of Whitehead’s flagrant display of wealth.
“It’s not about me being flashy. It’s about me purchasing what I want to purchase,” he said to critics. “It’s my prerogative to purchase what I want to purchase. If I worked hard for it, I can purchase what I want to purchase.”
Two men were indicted in September on federal charges for their alleged roles in the armed robbery, while a third defendant remains at large, according to the Department of Justice.
Whitehead was also being investigated. Whitehead previously served five years in New York State prison after being convicted of grand larceny and 15 instances of identity fraud in 2008, The City reported.
Whitehead appeared in court Dec. 19 and was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond.
Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead speaks with the media about his attempt to negotiate the surrender of a man accused of gunning down a stranger on a New York City subway train, on May 24, 2022, in New York. Miller-Whitehead, a preacher known for his close friendship with New York City’s mayor and a previous stint behind bars, was indicted Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, on charges he plundered a parishioner’s retirement savings to bankroll his flashy lifestyle and extorted a businessman by falsely claiming he could lean on city connections to make “millions” together. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)