Brooklyn bishop robbed of jewelry during service is arrested for fraud, extortion and lying to FBI

Bishop Lamor Whitehead is the head of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Bishop Lamor Whitehead is the head of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn, N.Y. | Screenshot: Instagram/I am Bishop Whitehead

Controversial Brooklyn Bishop Lamor Whitehead of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries, who has been dogged by allegations of fraud since he made headlines last summer when he and his church were robbed of jewelry he claimed was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, was arrested and charged Monday for fraud, extortion and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

An indictment unsealed by Damian Williams, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the New York Field Office of the FBI, accuses Whitehead, 45, of defrauding one of his parishioners out of $90,000 from her retirement savings, and attempting to extort and defraud a businessman, and lying to the FBI about the number of telephones he has, according to a release from the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The Brooklyn preacher, who is a resident of Paramus, New Jersey, has been charged with two counts of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each. He has also been charged with one count of extortion, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of making material false statements, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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Investigators allege that after Whitehead induced one of his parishioners to invest approximately $90,000 of her retirement savings with him, he spent her money on luxury goods and other personal expenses. They further allege that he extorted a businessman for $5,000, then tried to get the businessman to loan him $500,000 and give him a stake in certain real estate transactions in exchange for favorable actions from the New York City government.

“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,” Williams said in a statement. “His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now.”

When he was being questioned by FBI agents, Whitehead reportedly falsely said he only had one phone, which he was carrying at the time of his interview. But it was later discovered that he owned a second phone which he used regularly.

Whitehead pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Manhattan federal court and was released on $500,000 bond, the New York Post reported Monday.

His attorney, Dawn Florio, said her client was being targeted.

“We are vigorously going to defend these accusations. We feel that he is being targeted and he is being turned from a victim into a villain,” Florio told the publication. “This all stems out of a civil lawsuit that is being handled in civil court. He will be vindicated.”

Whitehead is being sued by parishioner Pauline Anderson, 56, for $2.45 million in actual and punitive damages for taking $90,000 of her savings to secure a house for her, but he used the money to secure a home for himself instead.

According to the lawsuit, filed last September and first cited publicly by The City, Whitehead promised to help Anderson purchase a home after she was rejected by two mortgage lenders because her credit score was too low. Anderson had co-signed for a student loan for one of her children which was in arrears, the lawsuit said.

When she failed to secure a home loan through traditional methods, the desperate Anderson who joined Whitehead’s church in January 2020, warily gave him a check for $90,000 in November 2020 when he said he could help her secure a home. She told Whitehead that she was wary in handing over her money because that was all she had to live on. Whitehead offered to give her $100 per month for her living expenses at that point to live off until the purchase and renovation of the property he promised was complete.

Whitehead did not give Anderson a receipt for the $90,000 she paid him.

The lawsuit said Anderson trusted Whitehead with her money partly because he was her pastor. When she joined his church in 2020, she had just recovered from a life-threatening surgery and Whitehead, who was introduced to her by her son, Rasheed Anderson, had prayed for her. She further trusted Whitehead to help her find a home because he had also previously helped her son secure a home.

Whitehead allegedly took Anderson’s money to purchase a $4.4 million mansion in Saddle River, New Jersey.

Whitehead, who ran a failed campaign to become Brooklyn borough president, also did not give Anderson the monthly $100 he promised, and when she inquired about her money he allegedly told her in text messages dated May 19, 2021, that “anything that was given to me is a Donation unless it’s attached to a contract! I was making investments that’s what I Do!”

Earlier this summer, information from the New York City Police Department said three masked gunmen burst into Whitehead's church and robbed them at gunpoint during a church service. A video of the incident shows Whitehead quickly surrendering to the gunmen as they relieved him, his wife and their congregation of their precious stones.

While police sources cited by The New York Times said the stolen jewelry was worth more than $1 million, other reports pegged the value at about $400,000.

Whitehead was arrested in 2006 for a $2 million identity-theft scam and served some five years in prison but was released in 2013. He claims he was "falsely convicted and arrested for a crime I did not commit."  

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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