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Bishop embezzled churchgoers’ retirement savings for luxury purchases

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Lamor Miller Whitehead, the church’s high-ranking bishop who rose to fame after being robbed mid-sermon during a live stream in July 2022, has been arrested and charged with fraud and extortion.

Prince Williams | Getty Images

According to a Dec. 19 press release of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Miller is charged “with defrauding one of his parishioners with part of her retirement savings, attempting to extort and defraud a businessman, and lying to the FBI.” The 45-year-old pastor of Leaders of the International Church of Tomorrow was arrested early Monday.

The release quoted U.S. Attorney Damian Williams as saying in part, “Lamor Whitehead abused the trust placed in him by a parishioner, bullied a businessman for $5,000, then tried to defraud him of much more than that, and lied to federal agents. “

FBI Deputy Director Michael J. Driscoll added that Whitehead was allegedly behind “several ambiguous schemes to receive money from his victims”, in addition to lying to investigators.

Charges unsealed in federal court stated that the pastor incited a parishioner to forgo $90,000 in retirement savings, promising to invest it on her behalf. However, prosecutors allege that the bishop spent the money on himself by buying “luxury goods” and using it for “other personal purposes.”

Whitehead allegedly committed extortion by asking another parishioner for $5,000, then following up on a request for $500,000. In return, prosecutors say the bishop promised to curry favor with the New York City government on his brand’s behalf, something he “knew he couldn’t get.” Whitehead is also accused of lying to investigators who were executing a search warrant of his property, telling them “that he had no cell phones other than the one he was carrying, when in fact he [he] owned a second telephone, with which he communicated regularly.”

If convicted on all charges — two counts of wire fraud, one of racketeering and one of making false statements — Bishop Lamor Whitehead could face a total of up to 45 years in prison.

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