US pastor, ‘Bling bishop’, sentenced to 9 years

A flamboyant Brooklyn pastor known as the “Bling bishop” has been sentenced to nine years in prison for schemes that included preying on the bank account of one of his own followers.

Lamor Whitehead, a New York preacher known for his flashy lifestyle, was found guilty in March of wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal investigators.

Prosecutors argued that Whitehead, 45, used his position as a religious leader to fleece people out of money to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Whitehead made headlines in 2022 after he was robbed at gunpoint during a live-streamed sermon. The thieves made off with $1m (£840,000) in watches, diamonds and emeralds.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called Whitehead a “con man” and said the sentence marks the end of his “various schemes”.

Officials say Whitehead, who led the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Canarsie, New York, deceived people with false promises and stole their money to purchase items including fancy clothing and cars.

One of his victims, a member of his church, gave him $90,000 – her life savings – believing that the money would go towards purchasing a home for her. It was instead spent on clothing and car payments.

He also doctored documents in order to secure business loans and attempted to extort a Bronx businessman by falsely claiming to have access to New York Mayor Eric Adams.

“Bishop Whitehead is in my prayers,” the mayor said on Monday ahead of the sentencing, according to the New York Times.

Lawyers for Whitehead said they plan to fight his conviction.

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source: BBC