Bishop Lamor Whitehead of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn, who claims he and his congregation lost jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars during a livestreamed robbery at his church on Sunday, allegedly scammed one of his parishioners of her life savings, which he's accused of using to purchase a $4.4 million mansion in New Jersey, according to a lawsuit filed in the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
He is now 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.
“The Premises is a large, palatial estate with an inground pool with a waterfall, outdoor fountains, hot tub, gym and wine cellar, among other luxury amenities. It is located in the upper-class neighborhood of Saddle River, New Jersey, one of the highest per-capita income markets in the country,” the lawsuit said.
“Upon information and belief, LWI and Mr. Whitehead fraudulently converted Ms. Anderson’s investment of $90,000.00 as part of his down payment on the Contract to purchase the Premises as a personal residence for Mr. Whitehead himself,” the lawsuit continued. “Ms. Anderson was instead left with nothing but a vague promise by Mr. Whitehead to pay the funds back in the future followed by an assertion that he had no further obligation to do so.”
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!”
Information from the New York City Police Department cited by The New York Post said three masked gunmen burst into Whitehead's church at around 11:14 a.m. on Sunday. 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.
In a statement during an Instagram Live session Monday, Whitehead, who is now offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunmen, said reports that the value of the stolen jewelry exceeds $1 million are incorrect.
"And just to clear things up. I know CNN has reported and also the [New York] Post, that over a million dollars of jewelry was stolen. That's inaccurate,” said the Brooklyn bishop who was arrested in 2006 for a $2 million identity-theft scam. Whitehead, 44, who served some five years in prison but was released in 2013, claims he was "falsely convicted and arrested for a crime I did not commit."