NYC's ‘Bling Bishop’ Lamor Whitehead sentenced to 9 years in prison for multiple scams

NEW YORK — Lamor Whitehead, the politically connected Brooklyn pastor and self-described mentee of New York Mayor Eric Adams dubbed the “Bling Bishop” for his flamboyant lifestyle, was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday for swindling a parishioner’s mother out of her life savings and other scams.

Manhattan Federal Court Judge Lorna Schofield handed down the term after hearing from financially destroyed victims. She also heard a final sermon from Whitehead, who waxed lyrical about “wisdom, integrity and love” and name-dropped a laundry list of city and state officials he’d dealt with — including the mayor, state Attorney General Letitia James, NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and others, none of whom were in attendance.

Schofield, who also ordered Whitehead to pay $85,000 in restitution and forfeit $95,000, said Whitehead’s crimes were dishonest, “any one” of which “would warrant a substantial sentence.”

“I know you stated you’re remorseful, but I don’t see any remorse for your conduct,” Schofield said.

Schofield said she’d read letters praising Whitehead’s positive impact as a church leader and a father, but she said they didn’t erase his fraud. She described the evidence as “frankly overwhelming” in one of the schemes that saw him submit fraudulent applications to obtain millions of dollars in loans, said she believed he’d perjured himself when he took the stand, and that she was troubled by the nature of his crimes mirroring those he was convicted of decades ago.

“You don’t seem to have an appreciation of the impact of your crimes or, in some ways, the facts,” the judge said.

A jury on March 11 convicted Whitehead of wire fraud, attempted extortion, lying to the FBI, and other charges for a series of schemes starting in 2018 that saw him bilk tens of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims.

Jurors heard from Pauline Anderson, who said Whitehead convinced her son, a volunteer at his church, Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Canarsie, Brooklyn, to trust him with at least $85,000 of her retirement savings to buy and renovate a fixer-upper home. The feds presented evidence showing the preacher spent the cash on designer clothing, his BMW, GrubHub and Foot Locker.

Anderson, 58, in court Monday, said Whitehead’s theft of her savings had led to emotional, physical and financial turmoil, telling the court, “What I was left with was nothing.”

The Brooklyn woman tearfully said she’d had many sleepless nights and that the incident “broke my heart, my spirit and my soul.”

Anderson’s son, Rasheed Anderson, said his mother was a matriarch figure to her extended family, who dedicated her life to her kids as a single mom, working to obtain her nursing degree in their native Jamaica before moving to New York.

He said her goal was always to save enough to buy her own home, a dream she toiled tirelessly toward for years that Whitehead ripped away in an instant.

“It hurts me as her son to see her like this,” he said. “We have been emotionally devastated.”

In asking the judge to impose a substantial sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Wikstrom said Whitehead — who’s been convicted five times — was a con man who abused his churchgoers’ trust and carried out his crimes as part of a pattern that continued throughout the trial and reflected “how calculated this was.”

The prosecutor said Whitehead’s remorse was so lacking that he continued to torment his victims in lawsuits to silence them and shift the blame in an “abuse of the legal system.”

“He purports to be a religious leader while stealing from people,” Wikstrom said. “It’s outrageous.”

Whitehead, 46, wearing beige prison clothing and shackles around his ankles, vigorously shook his right leg throughout the proceeding. He stood at the courtroom podium and spoke for around 20 minutes before the term was handed down, with the judge interrupting him at one point to say it wasn’t an opportunity to retry the case.

Whitehead said he’d endured barbaric treatment at the Metropolitan Detention Complex, where he said he’d showered only four times in the past month and was given rotten milk. The pastor’s bail was revoked in May after the feds accused him of violating a restraining order and trying to peddle sealed documents online.

The father of four said he couldn’t speak with his kids on Father’s Day, two days after his dad’s anniversary, due to a lockdown at Brooklyn’s federal jail.

“They need their father in their life,” Whitehead said, saying he knew what it meant not to grow up with a dad in pleading with the judge for no prison time and to let him be “the poster child of another chance.”

Rattling off a list of initiatives he’s been involved in and elected officials he’d worked with, Whitehead said he’d participated in “untold turkey giveaways” and that the jury didn’t get to see “who the real Bishop Lamor Whitehead was.” He said he was innocent but still remorseful for “the heartbreak” suffered by the Anderson family.

“As far as remorse, I’m very remorseful. I hate to see anyone hurt,” he said, later adding, “Your Honor, I am an honorable man.”

Whitehead’s defense attorney, Dawn Florio, said she would appeal immediately. In court, she described her client’s tough upbringing in poverty and his father’s killing by the NYPD when he was six months old. She said he suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of several disturbing experiences, including being stabbed on campus as a college student and held up at gunpoint in a live-streamed sermon in 2022.

Florio said her client maintained that the feds targeted him because of his close relationship with the mayor, who’s known the convicted pastor since his days as Brooklyn borough president.

Jurors heard how the headline-grabbing pastor dangled his ties to Adams to squeeze Brandon Belmonte for a $500,000 real estate investment. He told the Bronx businessman that Adams was his “key to the city,” recordings in evidence showed, and could help them lift stop-work orders on a property they were talking about buying together.

Whitehead, who’s described Adams as his “mentor” and “brother,” claimed that the FBI had pressured him to “help us get the mayor of New York” when he took the stand. The feds, probing Adams’ 2021 campaign in an unrelated investigation, did not accuse the mayor of wrongdoing in the case.

Asked for his reaction Monday, the mayor wished Whitehead well.

“Bishop Whitehead is in my prayers, and I wish the best for him.”


(New York Daily News staff writers Michael Gartland and Chris Sommerfeldt contributed to this story.)