Prosecutors: Fraud fed Brooklyn preacher’s flashy lifestyle

Dec 18, 2022, 11:07 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 4:07 pm
FILE - Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead speaks with the media about his attempt to negotiate the surre...

FILE - Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead speaks with the media about his attempt to negotiate the surrender of a man accused of gunning down a stranger on a New York City subway train, on May 24, 2022, in New York. Miller-Whitehead, a preacher known for his close friendship with New York City's mayor and a previous stint behind bars, was indicted Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, on charges he plundered a parishioner's retirement savings to bankroll his flashy lifestyle and extorted a businessman by falsely claiming he could lean on city connections to make “millions” together. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A Brooklyn preacher known for his close friendship with New York City’s mayor and a previous stint behind bars was arrested Monday on charges he plundered a parishioner’s retirement savings to bankroll his flashy lifestyle and extorted a businessman by falsely claiming he could lean on city connections to make “millions” together.

Lamor Miller-Whitehead — a Rolls Royce-driving bishop who made headlines in July when armed bandits crashed his church service and robbed him of $1 million in jewelry — pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud, extortion and making false statements for allegedly lying to FBI agents by denying he had a second cell phone. The wire fraud and extortion charges each carry a maximum punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

Miller-Whitehead’s “campaign of fraud and deceit stops now,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. An indictment, returned last week under seal and placed in a courthouse vault, was made public ahead of his arraignment Monday.

Miller-Whitehead, 45, was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond. U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield said he must stay in the New York City area while the case is pending, maintain employment and can’t have any contact with alleged victims or witnesses.

“Bishop Lamor Whitehead is not guilty of these charges,” defense lawyer Dawn Florio said. “He will be vigorously defending these allegations. He feels that he is being targeted and being turned into a villain from a victim.”

Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who grew close to Miller-Whitehead while serving as Brooklyn’s borough president, said: “I’ve spent decades enforcing the law and expect everyone to follow it. I have also dedicated my life to assisting individuals with troubled pasts. While these allegations are troubling, I will withhold further comment until the process reaches its final conclusion.”

Prosecutors did not implicate Adams and did not mention Miller-Whitehead’s ties to him.

Miller-Whitehead formed the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in 2013 after serving a five-year prison sentenced for identity theft and grand larceny in a case that he claims was the result of an illegal conviction. Despite preaching in Brooklyn, he lives in a $1.6 million home in Paramus, New Jersey, records show. He also owns apartment buildings in Hartford, Connecticut.

Miller-Whitehead is accused of bilking victims with threats and false promises of a better life and big investment returns. Miller-Whitehead took the money “with no intention of investing it, returning it, or enriching the victims,” the indictment said.

In one case, mirroring a civil lawsuit filed last year, Miller-Whitehead allegedly defrauded a parishioner out of $90,000 in retirement savings by falsely promising to help her find a home and invest the remainder in his real estate business. Instead, prosecutors said, Miller-Whitehead used the money to buy thousands of dollars in luxury goods and clothing.

In the lawsuit, the parishioner alleges Miller-Whitehead told her he considered the money not as an investment, but a donation to his unsuccessful campaign last year for Brooklyn borough president and that he was under no obligation to repay her. The parishioner’s lawyer said they had no comment on Miller-Whitehead’s indictment.

Miller-Whitehead is also charged with attempting to convince a businessman to lend him $500,000 and give him a stake in certain real estate transactions, in part by claiming he help the businessman by obtaining favorable actions from city government on his behalf, prosecutors said. Miller-Whitehead “knew he had no ability to obtain such actions” but claimed to the businessman that they would be making “millions,” prosecutors said.

Earlier this year, prosecutors said, Miller-Whitehead used the threat of force to get $5,000 from the businessman’s company. According to the indictment, law enforcement officers investigating Miller-Whitehead directed the businessman to make the payment in February. The businessman was not identified in the indictment.

Miller-Whitehead’s indictment shows he was already under investigation when he was robbed in July and, prior to that, when he showed up to a Manhattan police precinct in May in a Rolls Royce SUV attempting to negotiate the surrender of a man accused of fatally shooting a stranger on a New York City subway train.

Miller-Whitehead, noting his closeness with the mayor, told reporters at the time that he had “multiple conversations” with Adams regarding Andrew Abdullah’s surrender, although the suspect was ultimately picked up by police outside the offices of the public defender organization that was representing him.

According to the indictment, Miller-Whitehead was under investigation since at least February. That’s when he allegedly obtained the $5,000 from the businessman. In June, FBI agents executed a search warrant for Miller-Whitehead’s cellphones. That’s when they say he lied and claimed he only had one phone. After the search, according to the indictment, he sent a text message from his second phone referring to it as “my other phone.”

In an Instagram post in the wake of the church robbery, Miller-Whitehead defended his lifestyle, saying he’s “going to live his life the way God has it set up for him.”

“It’s not about me being flashy,” Miller-Whitehead said. “It’s about me, purchasing what I want to purchase. And it’s my prerogative to purchase what I want to purchase.”

___

Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak. Send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
9 hours ago
FILE - Military personnel watch as Air Force One, with President Donald Trump, aboard prepares to d...
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It's delivering its final 747 jumbo jet.
9 hours ago
seattle police...
Associated Press

Name of Seattle officer in crash that killed woman released

Police have released the name of a Seattle police officer who was responding to a medical call when his patrol SUV hit and killed a 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula last week in a city crosswalk.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Endangered rhino poaching nearly doubled in Namibia in 2022

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) — Rhino poaching in Namibia increased dramatically last year, with nearly twice as many of the critically endangered animals killed than the year before, the country’s environment ministry says. The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism released figures on Monday showing that 87 rhinos were poached in 2022, up from 45 in […]
1 day ago
FILE - Anti-coup protesters gesture during a march in Yangon, Myanmar, Friday, March 26, 2021. As F...
Associated Press

US sanctions Myanmar groups ahead of coup anniversary

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. said Tuesday it was imposing sanctions on a group of people and organizations connected to Myanmar’s military regime as the two-year anniversary nears for the coup that removed the country’s civilian government. Six people and three organizations were designed for sanctions, including the country’s elections commission, several mining firms and […]
1 day ago
Florida center Jason Jitoboh (33) runs up court after making a shot against Alabama during the firs...
Associated Press

Jitoboh’s recovery coming into focus year after eye injury

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jason Jitoboh won’t step foot onto a basketball court without his glasses. And he doesn’t even need them to see. The darkened lenses merely provide extra protection for what eyesight Jitoboh has remaining. Florida’s 6-foot-11 center took a finger to his left eye at Tennessee last January and spent the better […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Prosecutors: Fraud fed Brooklyn preacher’s flashy lifestyle