Brooklyn pastor charged with fraud, extortion and false statements

Photo via Getty Images
Photo via Getty Images

Damian Williams, the Jamaican-American United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced on Monday the unsealing of an indictment charging Lamor Whitehead, a Brooklyn pastor, with defrauding one of his parishioners out of part of her retirement savings, attempting to extort and defraud a businessman, and lying to the FBI.

Whitehead, 45, of Paramus, NJ, was arrested Monday morning and was expected to appear in federal court on Monday before United States Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein.  

“As we allege today, Lamor 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,” said Williams, whose father is a Jamaican-born physician. “His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now.” 

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said: “As we allege today, Whitehead carried out several duplicitous schemes in order to receive funds from his victims.  

“Additionally, when speaking with authorities, Whitehead consciously chose to mislead and lie to them,” he said. “If you are willing to attempt to obtain funds through false promises or threats, the FBI will ensure that you are made to face the consequences for your actions in our criminal justice system.” 

According to the indictment unsealed on Monday in Manhattan federal court, Whitehead, who leads a church in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, has engaged in a  course of conduct in which he sought money and other things of value from victims on the basis of either threats or false promises that the victims’ investments would benefit the victims financially.  

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

Second, the indictment claims that Whitehead extorted a businessman for $5,000, then attempted to convince the same businessman to lend him $500,000 and give him a stake in certain real estate transactions in return for favorable actions from the New York City government, “which Whitehead knew he could not obtain.”

In addition, when speaking with FBI agents who were executing a search warrant, the indictment says Whitehead falsely claimed that “he had no cellphones other than the phone he was carrying when, in fact, Whitehead owned a second phone, which he regularly used to communicate — including to send a text message describing it as ‘my other phone’ shortly after telling the agents he had no other phones.”

Whitehead is charged with two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of extortion, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of making material false statements, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.