Lamor Whitehead, a flashy Brooklyn pastor who was robbed months ago during church service, was charged on Monday, Dec. 19, with fraud, extortion, and lying to federal authorities.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Mr. Whitehead solicited money from victims, including a retired parishioner, through threats or false promises of enriching them, then kept the money for himself.
Dawn Florio, a lawyer for Mr. Whitehead, said, “Bishop Whitehead denies these allegations and we are going to fight them vigorously.”
Whitehead, who preaches “prosperity gospel” at his Canarsie church, drives a Rolls-Royce and often wears pricey jewelry and Gucci suits, was indicted on two counts of wire fraud, one count of extortion, and one count of making material false statements, federal prosecutors said.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of 65 years in prison.
The federal prosecutors allege Whitehead scammed one of his parishioners out of $90,000 of her retirement savings by promising to use the cash to buy her a home — and instead blowing it on luxury goods and clothing, according to the indictment.
In another alleged scheme, Whitehead extorted a businessman for $5,000 and asked the man to lend him $500,000 — promising he could “obtain favorable actions by the New York City government” in exchange for the cash and interest in real estate transactions, the indictment states.
“His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after Whitehead’s arrest.
Whitehead was convicted of identity theft charges brought by state prosecutors in 2006 for using the personal information of several people to buy cars and motorcycles.
He was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, but was released for good behavior in 2013.
Whitehead, who currently faces a number of civil suits, launched an unsuccessful campaign for Brooklyn borough president in 2021. One of his former campaign workers now claims he duped him out of $56,000.
Whitehead called the campaign worker’s suit “frivolous.” His attorney, Dawn Florio, said her client was innocent of the federal charges.
“Bishop Lamor Whitehead is not guilty of these charges,” Florio said in a statement. “He will be vigorously defending these allegations. He feels that he is being targeted and being turned into a villain from a victim.”
Whitehead also made headlines in May when he tried to negotiate the surrender of an accused subway shooter.
Whitehead drew widespread media attention on July 23 when three suspects burst into his church, Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries, during a live-streamed service and robbed him at gunpoint for jewelry estimated at up to $1 million.
Two men, Juwan Anderson and Say-Quan Pollack, both 23, were charged in Brooklyn federal court for the robbery that was caught on live video.
Their trials are scheduled to begin early next year.