Brooklyn bishop Lamor Whitehead arrested on federal charges of wire fraud, extortion

NEW YORK (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) — Bishop Lamor Whitehead—the flashy Brooklyn pastor who made headlines in July when he was robbed at gunpoint of $1 million in jewelry during a church service—was arrested Monday on federal charges of wire fraud and extortion.

The well-known pastor is accused of defrauding one of his parishioners out of part of her retirement savings, attempting to extort and defraud a businessman and lying to the FBI.

The charges were unsealed Monday in Manhattan federal court, where Whitehead was due later in the day, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Whitehead, 45, is charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of extortion and one count of making material false statements.

In a statement announcing the arrest, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Whitehead “abused the trust placed in him by a parishioner, bullied a businessman for $5,000, then tried to defraud him of far more than that, and lied to federal agents. His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now.”

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said Whitehead “carried out several duplicitous schemes in order to receive funds from his victims” and then “consciously chose to mislead and lie to them” to investigators.

Prosecutors accused Whitehead, of Paramus, of seeking money and other valuables from people “on the basis of either threats or false promises.”

According to the indictment, Whitehead persuaded one of his parishioners to invest $90,000 of her retirement savings with him but instead spent the investment on luxury goods and other personal purposes.

Whitehead also allegedly extorted a businessman out of $5,000 before attempting to convince him to lend him $500,000 and give him a stake in real estate transactions in return for favorable actions from the city government, actions he knew he couldn’t obtain, prosecutors said.

As FBI agents executed a search warrant, Whitehead also falsely claimed he had no cellphones other than the phone he was carrying on him, according to prosecutors.

In reality, Whitehead had a second phone, which he regularly used to communicate with, including to send a text that referred to the device as “my other phone” shortly after he lied to the agents, according to prosecutors.

It’s unclear when the interaction between Whitehead and the agents happened.

Whitehead faces decades in prison if convicted on all the counts.

The pastor was famously held up at gunpoint as he conducted a sermon at his Tomorrow International Ministry in Canarsie on July 24—a robbery that was captured on a livestream of the event.

During the robbery, Whitehead dove to the floor while his wife shielded their infant daughter who was sitting on her lap. Several thieves made off with more than $1 million in jewelry, authorities have said.

Two men were arrested in September in connection with the holdup and face federal robbery charges. A third man was said to remain at large.

Whitehead was initially questioned about whether the heist was staged.

“The last two months were hell,” he said. “This clears up the whole narrative that I had something to do with this crime. It’s a new beginning.”

Authorities said they believe Whitehead didn’t know his attackers and that they were attracted to him and his wife because of the jewelry they wore.

In the past, Whitehead has said he is friends with Mayor Eric Adams, even referring to him as a “mentor” and “brother.” The mayor hasn’t commented on his arrest.

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