“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 Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now.”
If convicted, Whitehead faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, court documents say.
Whitehead’s attorney, Dawn Florio, denied the allegations levied against her client. “Bishop Lamor Whitehead is not guilty of these charges. He will be vigorously defending these allegations,” said Florio, adding, “He feels that he is being targeted and being turned into a villain from a victim.”
In a court appearance Monday, Whitehead was released on personal recognizance after posting bail. According to U.S. Attorney spokesperson Nicholas Biase, the conditions of his release state that he cannot travel outside of the southern and eastern districts of New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, isn’t allowed to contact the victims in this case, must maintain “verifiable employment,” and cannot apply for a new passport.
Whitehead made news in the summer when assailants stormed a livestreamed Sunday service and robbed him and his wife of $1 million worth of jewelry.
“When I see them come into the sanctuary with their guns, I told everybody to get out, everybody just get out,” Whitehead said in a video posted to Instagram at the time. “I didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the church up or if they were just coming for a robbery.”
In September, he made headlines again when he was removed from his church by police after video appeared to show him grabbing a woman and pushing her.
The woman was identified as Tarsha Howard and was charged with trespassing and disrupting a religious service. Though Whitehead wasn’t arrested according to police, the preacher said he was in fact put in a holding cell.