The New York City bishop, who was robbed of about $1 million in jewelry during a live-streamed service in July, was arrested Monday morning and faces fraud and racketeering charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Lamor Whitehead, who led the Church of Tomorrow International Ministries Leaders Church in Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood, was charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of racketeering and one count of making major claims to the FBI, court documents say. Charges of making false statements.
In one case, Whitehead, 45, is accused of convincing a parishioner to invest about $90,000 of her retirement savings in him under the pretense that he would help her buy a home. Instead, he allegedly spent the money on “thousands of dollars in luxury items and clothing.”
He is also accused of using the threat of force to obtain $5,000 from a New York businessman who passed the money to Whitehead, court documents said.
Whitehead also allegedly tried to persuade the same businessman to lend him approximately $500,000 and give him “interest on a real estate transaction” in exchange for “favorable action by the City of New York,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but he was unable to obtain that. One offer.
Whitehead allegedly told FBI agents executing the search warrant that he only had one cell phone, when in fact he had a second.
“As we allege today, Lamor Whitehead abused the trust a parishioner had placed in him by bullying a businessman for $5,000, then attempted to defraud much more than that, and lied to federal agents,” U.S. Attorney for the South, Damian Williams, New York, D.C. said. “His fraudulent and deceitful activities have now ceased.”
If convicted, Whitehead faces at least 20 years in prison, court documents said.
Whitehead’s attorney, Dawn Florio, has denied the allegations. “Bishop Lamor Whitehead did not commit these charges. He will vigorously defend against them. He feels he has been targeted and has gone from victim to villain.”
Whitehead was posted on a personal bond on $500,000 bond when he appeared in court on Monday. Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for U.S. Attorneys, said the condition for his release was that he not leave New York, New Jersey or outside of the southern and eastern districts of Connecticut and, in this case, not have contact with the victim . He must also maintain a “verifiable employment” and cannot apply for a new passport.
Whitehead was in the news over the summer when attackers stormed a live Sunday service and robbed him and his wife of $1 million in jewelry.
“When I saw them enter the shelter with guns, I told everyone to get out, everyone to get out,” Whitehead said in a video posted on Instagram at the time. “I don’t know if they wanted to shoot the church or if they were just here to rob.”
The bishop made headlines again in September when he was led away from a church by police after video appeared to show him grabbing and shoving a woman.
He was preaching at a Brooklyn church when someone in the congregation started yelling off-camera. He suspended service in response.
“Are you coming to preach?” he said as the live service was drawing to a close. “Come on. I’m going to make you famous.”
As a woman approaches him, the video appears to show Bishop grabbing the hair on the back of her neck and pushing her away from the camera.
The woman, identified as Tasha Howard, was charged with trespassing and disrupting a religious ceremony. Whitehead was not arrested, but Bishop disagreed and said he was being held in a cell, according to police.
“You put me in jail, then let me out, and said, ‘Oops, you made a mistake’?” he said in a video at the time. “But you can’t arrest me for no reason. I want to protect my family.”