James Edward Smith II, “a third generation preacher,” convicted felon and leader of the New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, was arrested by authorities on multiple charges Wednesday connected to his alleged sale of the church for $600,000 to support his drug habit.
A press release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Smith, 49, was charged with organized scheme to defraud, fraud, grand theft, criminal use of personal identification information, unlawful filing of false document records against real or personal property, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm by convicted felon and violation of probation.
Investigators allege that they began investigating Smith last April after church members complained that he “fraudulently gained control over the church and church funds.”
It was later discovered that the pastor “filed a forged quit claim deed allowing him to assume complete control of the church property and then sold it for $600,000, using the money to support a drug habit.”
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office also charged Smith for larceny and fraud in connection with “worthless checks totaling more than $1,600 written on the church’s bank account.”
A search of the pastor’s home further revealed “heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and a stolen firearm.”
According to the church’s website, Smith is a married father of four who has gone through many “trying times.”
“His passion for the ministry has led him and kept him in many trying times. Along with a powerful gift in ministry comes anointed vocal and song writing ability that is proven by one of his original songs ‘I’m no longer the same.’ His traditional flavor layered with a contemporary draw has made it easy for the old to connect and the young to relate,” his bio reads.
Smith also serves as a mentor to young men whose fathers are not active in their homes.
Once asked who he wanted to reach with his ministry, Smith said, “everybody.”
“Those who know and don’t know they need Jesus!” said Smith on the church’s website. “So this covers everybody. I want people to know that the forces of Satan are real but so are the forces of God. People must understand there is another good time that Satan doesn’t want them to know about and it is in Jesus.”
The website adds that Smith’s favorite quotes focuses on restoration: “What would I know about being restored if I’d never lost my place? What would I know about God’s mercy if I’d never fallen from grace?” he asked.
“Reverend Smith extracts from experiences that God has brought him through to be a testimony to the young and a reminder to the old that God can do anything but fail!” the church explains. “When ministering, his dynamic energy and conviction invites you into a place of worship and praise.”