Bishop Lamor Whitehead arrested on federal charges, allegedly swindled parishioner, lied to FBI

bishop lamor whitehead
Bishop Lamor Whitehead, the leader of a Canarsie church, was arrested Monday on federal charges.
File photo by Dean Moses

Bishop Lamor Whitehead, who ascended to fame last summer when he was robbed at gunpoint during a live streamed service at his Canarsie church, was arrested on federal fraud and extortion charges and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations on Dec. 19, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Whitehead is slated to appear in Manhattan federal court later today.

Whitehead, coined “The Bling-Bling Bishop” for his affinity for flashy jewelry and clothing and expensive cars, allegedly defrauded one of his parishioners at Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries of a large chunk of her retirement savings, attempted to defraud a businessman, and lied to the FBI.

close up picture of bishop lamor whitehead
Whitehead is being charged with counts of fraud, extortion, and making false statements to the FBI, the District Attorney’s office announced on Monday. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“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 U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. “His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now.”

According to court documents, Whitehead allegedly convinced one of his parishioners to transfer $90,000 from her retirement savings account to him last year, promising to use some of the money to help her buy a home and to invest the rest in his real estate business. Rather than using the money as promised, Whitehead reportedly used the funds to buy “luxury goods and clothing” for himself, and did not return any of the money to the parishioner — even after she asked him to.

Whitehead also allegedly “used threats of force,” to obtain $5,000 from a business owned by a second victim — per court documents, the victim made the payment to Whitehead “at the direction of law enforcement.” Last spring, according to court documents, Whitehead approached the businessman again and tried to get him to transfer $500,000 to Whitehead and give him stake in his real estate business. In exchange, Whitehead allegedly promised to secure “favorable actions” from the city government that would benefit both the victim and Whitehead.

Whitehead is friendly with Mayor Eric Adams, who said in July that he has been a “mentor” for the bishop. 

lamor whitehead's hands with jewelry
The preacher allegedly convinced a parishioner to transfer him money from her retirement account, promising to help her find a home and invest the rest of the funds — but instead bought luxury goods for himself, according to court documents. File photo by Dean Moses

Finally, in June 2022, FBI agents executed a search warrant for Whitehead’s cell phones as part of an investigation, per the indictment. Whitehead allegedly lied to federal agents and told them he only used one cell phone, which he had with him at the time of the search — but he owned and regularly used a second phone. 

“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,” said FBI assistant director Michale J. Driscoll in a statement. “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.”

Whitehead faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of any of the top charges — he is being indicted with two counts of wire fraud and one count of extortion, each of which carries a 20-year maximum sentence – and one count of making material false statements, which has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

bishop lamor whitehead at press conference
Whitehead is charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, plus extortion and making false statements. The top charges carry prison sentences of up to 20 years. File photo by Dean Moses

The bishop had previously spent five years in prison for grand larceny and identity theft. In September, he was arrested after getting into a physical fight with a congregant during a livestreamed service — but was quickly released, and was not charged, though the woman involved in the altercation was. 

In July, Whitehead and his wife were robbed at gunpoint in the middle of a live streamed service. The thieves allegedly stole $1 million worth of jewelry from the pair while threatening he and his infant daughter with firearms. Two suspects were arrested in connection with the robbery in September.