Brooklyn-based Bishop Lamor Whitehead, who rose to national prominence this summer after he was robbed at a live-streamed church service, faces charges of wire fraud and extortion in an unrelated matter.
Whitehead, 45, faces two counts of wire fraud, one count of extortion and another of making false statements for crimes allegedly committed against one of his parishioners and a man of cases, federal prosecutors said.
Whitehead, known for his expensive clothes, cars and other displays of wealth, leads the Leaders of Tomorrow International Churches in New York. In July, Whitehead and his wife had $1 million worth of jewelry stolen after gunmen entered their church.
People criticized Whitehead for his luxurious lifestyle following the incident. Others even asked if the theft was real. However, two men were later arrested for the theft.
Following news of the federal charges against him, Whitehead maintained his innocence in a 15-minute Instagram video posted on Tuesday.
In the video, Whitehead sits in front of two smiling portraits of himself and says, “The Bishop is not guilty. And I will fight him. I have the right legal team, and more importantly, I have God.”
“Nothing has changed. I am still the same bishop,” he said. “And I’ll say it again. Just because you’ve been arrested doesn’t mean you’re guilty. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I’m telling you everything. You already drank it. Don’t drink it again. Give it is time.”
Prosecutors allege Whitehead used threats and lies to get money from individuals, which he then spent on luxury items for himself.
In April 2020 until around July 2021, Whitehead allegedly convinced one of his parishioners to invest about $90,000 of his retirement savings. This was done with the promise that the bishop would help him find a house and use some of the money to invest in his real estate ventures.
Instead, Whitehead used his money for himself, according to the indictment against him.
In another incident, the indictment alleges Whitehead tricked an unnamed businessman into handing over large sums of money. In the spring of 2022, Whitehead allegedly encouraged the businessman to give the church leader $500,000 and a stake in some real estate deals. In return, the man was told he would receive “beneficial actions” from the New York government that would enrich both Whitehead and himself, prosecutors said.
Whitehead also lied to FBI agents when executing a search warrant, prosecutors said. Apparently the pastor falsely claimed that he had no other cell phones other than the one he was carrying at the time. In fact, Whitehead owned a second phone, which he used regularly, including sending a text message describing it as “my other phone” right after he told officers he had no other phone, prosecutors said. .
Each count of wire fraud and extortion, three in total, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Making material false statements is punishable by up to five years in prison.