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New York’s ‘bling bishop’ denies charges of fraud and extortion

Lamor Whitehead is accused of taking $90,000 from a parishioner and extorting a businessman by falsely claiming he could lean on city connections

Lamor Whitehead,
Bishop Lamor Whitehead in May.Mary Altaffer (AP)

A Brooklyn preacher known as the “bling bishop” because of his flashy lifestyle on Tuesday said he was innocent of fraud and extortion charges brought against him following his arrest a day earlier.

In an Instagram post, Lamor M. Whitehead, who is a friend of New York City’s mayor and has served a previous stint behind bars, denied that he had plundered a parishioner’s retirement savings and extorted a businessman by falsely claiming he could lean on city connections to make “millions” together.

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.

Whitehead is also a close friend of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has been in the spotlight lately for his questionable friendships, including his links to two brothers who own one of the mayor’s favorite restaurants in Manhattan and who are suspected of accounting and tax irregularities.

Whitehead’s “campaign of fraud and deceit stops now,” Manhattan US 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.

Whitehead, 45, was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond. US District Judge Lorna Schofield said he must stay in the New York City area while the case is pending and maintain employment. He has also been prohibited from making any contact with alleged victims or witnesses.

“Bishop Lamor Whitehead is not guilty of these charges,” his 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.”

“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,” said Mayor Adams, a former police captain who grew close to Whitehead while serving as Brooklyn’s borough president. Prosecutors did not implicate Adams and did not mention Whitehead’s ties to him.

Whitehead formed the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in 2013 after serving a five-year prison sentence 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.

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

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