The striking, jewelry-displayed Brooklyn pastor, who said he was robbed while preaching at his church last summer, was arrested Monday – unrelated to the July incident – on charges of allegedly defrauding a parishioner, attempting to sell a FBI arrested businessman for blackmailing and lying, according to a federal indictment.
Lamor Whitehead, the 45-year-old pastor who calls himself “Bishop,” has been charged with wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, attempted extortion and making material false statements, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said. He faces up to 65 years in prison for his alleged crimes.
As pastor of Leaders of Tomorrow According to the International Ministry, Whitehead deceived one of his local parishioners $90,000 from her retirement savings for at least 14 months beginning around April 2020, according to the indictment. The document said Whitehead told the parishioner he would use her money to help her buy a house and invest the rest of the money, but instead “to buy thousands of dollars in luxuries and clothing” and ” for his own ends”.
Whitehead never helped her buy a house, the court document said, and never returned her money despite her plea.
This spring, Whitehead reportedly tried to convince a businessman to lend him about $500,000 and give him an equity stake in real estate transactions against “favorable actions by the New York City government” that would bring them “millions” – something the pastor knew he couldn’t get, the indictment says. Earlier this year, he was also reported to have used “threats of violence” against the same businessman to extort $5,000 from him.
Additionally, Whitehead allegedly told FBI agents executing a search warrant that he only had one phone. But the indictment says he had a second phone that he used — including a text message describing it as “my other phone,” the indictment says.
Whitehead appeared in court Monday and was released on $500,000 personal acknowledgment bail, according to prosecutors spokesman Nicholas Biase.
“As we claim today, Lamor Whitehead betrayed the trust placed in him by a parishioner, bullied a businessman for $5,000, then attempted to cheat him out of far more than that and lied to federal agents,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement Explanation . “His campaign of fraud and deception will now stop.”
Whitehead’s attorney, Dawn Florio, denied the allegations against Whitehead.
“Bishop Lamor Whitehead is not guilty of these allegations,” Florio told CNN. “We vigorously defend these allegations and we feel that he is being attacked and turned from a victim into a villain.”
Back 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, according to a separate federal indictment. Part of the incident was captured in live stream video from inside the church, which showed Whitehead raising his hands and complying with demands from the gunmen.
He reported that the stolen jewelry was worth more than $1 million, raising questions about how and why the pastor acquired and flaunted such riches.
In September, two men were charged with their alleged role in the armed robbery, while a third suspect remains at large, according to the Justice Department. Juwan Anderson, 23, and Say-Quan Pollack, 24, have pleaded not guilty to the charges and a trial date is set for July, according to federal court records.
Whitehead’s verified Instagram account describes his extravagant shows of wealth, including Louis Vuitton-embellished suits, big jewelry and brightly colored sports cars. In a video posted shortly after the robbery, he lashed out at media headlines, calling it “conspicuous.”
“It’s not about me being conspicuous. It’s about me buying what I want to buy,” he said. “It’s my prerogative to buy what I want to buy. If I’ve worked hard for it, I can buy what I want to buy.”
According to his biography on the Leaders of Tomorrow website, Whitehead attended New York Theological Seminary and graduated with a Certificate in Ministry in Human Services from Theological Institution of Rising Hope Inc. It advertises him as a New York State Licensed Chaplain and a Certified Marriage and Funeral Clerk. In 2013 he founded Leaders of Tomorrow Ministry in Brooklyn, according to his biography.