On Sunday, Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead wore an Adidas tracksuit and bejeweled watch as he addressed his congregation via live stream from his home. During the over two-hour service he titled “What Are You Made Of,” the “bling bishop” talked about his collection of Fendi, Gucci and Louis Vuitton items.
“It’s God’s design,” the New York-based preacher with Leaders of Tomorrow International Churches said in a clip posted to Instagram. “Wear what you want to wear because it was designed for you.”
Miller-Whitehead was arrested on federal charges less than 24 hours later. A grand jury alleged that some of the bishop’s designer items weren’t a product of faith, but rather the result of bilking a member of his church. He is also accused of attempting to extort a businessman and of lying to federal investigators, according to an indictment.
“His campaign of fraud and deceit stops now,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a news release.
On Monday, Miller-Whitehead pleaded not guilty to the four charges he is facing, including wire fraud, attempted extortion and deceiving the FBI. His attorney, Dawn Florio, told The Washington Post that Miller-Whitehead “is not guilty of these charges.”
“He feels that he is being targeted and being turned into a villain from a victim,” Florio said.
Miller-Whitehead was released after posting a $500,000 bond, Florio confirmed.
Preacher and his wife robbed of $1 million in jewelry during sermon
Miller-Whitehead made headlines in July when three masked gunmen entered his church and made away with $1 million worth of jewelry from the bishop and his wife during a live-streamed service. Two suspects were arrested two months later, while a third remains at large, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York announced in September.
The incident garnered international attention, but in its aftermath, questions began swirling about Miller-Whitehead’s flamboyant lifestyle — and soon, some of the bishop’s previous legal battles were put under the spotlight.
One of the incidents to resurface in the robbery’s wake: a 2021 lawsuit claiming Miller-Whitehead had promised to help a parishioner buy a home.
“I am a man of integrity and you will not lose,” Miller-Whitehead texted the woman, who was recovering from “life-threatening surgery,” after she liquidated her savings account in 2020, according to court documents.
Instead, he’s accused of using $90,000 the woman had withdrawn from her retirement account as part of the down payment toward a $4.4 million New Jersey property, according to the lawsuit.
After months passed without a home purchase, the woman confronted Miller-Whitehead, who allegedly said he had no obligation to repay her since the money she provided counted as an investment in his unsuccessful campaign for Brooklyn borough president in 2021. A year later, the woman’s lawsuit became part of the indictment against Miller-Whitehead.
The indictment also claims Miller-Whitehead made “threats of force” to get $5,000 from a businessman’s company earlier this year. Then between April and May, the bishop allegedly tried to persuade the same unnamed businessman to lend him $500,000 and give him a “stake in certain real-estate transactions.” In exchange, prosecutors said, Miller-Whitehead promised to “obtain favorable action from the New York City government” in a move that would enrich both the bishop and the businessman with “millions.”
It’s unclear why Miller-Whitehead would purportedly receive special treatment from government officials, but the indictment’s allegations have cast light on the bishop’s relationship with New York Mayor Eric Adams, who as former Brooklyn borough president took Miller-Whitehead under his wing, according to the pastor’s online bio.
A spokesperson for Adams didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post. However, in a statement to the Gothamist, the mayor said he’d refrain from commenting until the case is resolved.
“I’ve spent decades enforcing the law and expect everyone to follow it,” Adams told the outlet, calling the allegations “troubling.” “I have also dedicated my life to assisting individuals with troubled pasts.”
Three charges Miller-Whitehead is facing — two counts of wire fraud and one of extortion — carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence each. The bishop is also accused of making material false statements to FBI agents, who were executing a search warrant, about the number of phones he possessed — a charge that carries a maximum five-year sentence.
After previously being found guilty of identity theft and larceny, which he maintains were “illegal” convictions, Miller-Whitehead turned to “the power of transformation through God’s love and grace” to found the Leaders of Tomorrow Ministry, according to his bio. A preacher of prosperity gospel, the bishop’s sermons often profess that a mix of God’s will, unwavering faith and financial donations will result in personal wealth — his “Gucci, Fendi and Louis” outfits are a testament to it, Miller-Whitehead said a day before his arrest.
“Everybody thought that I was a villain,” Miller-Whitehead said during his Sunday sermon, reflecting on the reactions to the July robbery. “But now they’re seeing I was anointed by God.”