The House of Worship is supposed to be a place for peace and safety. Several churchgoers, however, have been robbed of that after their pastors did the unthinkable. In recent years, several pastors have been caught taking advantage of their congregation and leaving some without a place to worship.
Brooklyn-based Bishop Lamor Whitehead because famous last summer after he was robbed of over $1 million worth of jewelry during a live stream. It was revealed during the investigation that the Pastor was the real culprit and had been taking money from the members. He ran the Leaders of Tomorrow in NYC. Whitehead was charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of extortion, and another for making false statements surrounding the within his parish. He managed to con one woman out of $90k from her retirement savings after promising to put it towards a new home for her.
In 2014, Barry Minkow conned a congretation in California. The San Diego house of worship was cheated out of almost $3 million by Minkow, who was considered a “professional” at taking advantage of people. Minkow opened unauthorized accounts, forged signatures on checks, and used donations from members for his own personal benefit. At the time he was caught, he was already serving five years behind bars for securities fraud in Florida.
Last October, a Louisiana place of worship was out $900k following minister Charles Southall laundering the funds to cover bills. Southall worked at the First Emanuel in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He took grant money meant for a school and deposited it into personal accounts he ran with a co-conspirator.
Today, a Broward County pastor joins the long list of fraudsters. James Edward Smith II had committed several crimes against his Pompano Beach house of worship. In April of 2022, churchgoers complained that Smith had gained control of the church illegally. According to local news, “Smith filed a forged quit claim deed that allowed him to control the church property and then sold it for $600,000 to use the money for his [substance] habit.”
Smith’s was hit with various charges including schemes to defraud, grand theft and unlawful filing of a false document.