*Brooklyn Bishop Lamor M. Whitehead of Tomorrow International Ministries is a hot topic after he and his wife were robbed during a live stream of approximately one million dollars of jewelry during his sermon.
Now, rumors swirl that it might be insurance fraud and the media has painted him as a flamboyant pastor with a questionable and criminal past. But some are questioning the media’s portrayal. Is it a double standard? Is it racism?
Is there any evidence of insurance fraud?
The Bishop, who is known for close ties to New York mayor Eric Adams, sits down with iHeart radio personality and EURweb.com Spotlight host Jazmyn ‘Jaz’ Summers to set the record straight in an EXCLUSIVE interview.
Describe for us that moment when you were robbed.
This has been a very traumatizing season of my life, First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for just allowing me to have mercy, to be here, On July 24th, I saw my life before my eyes. As I was starting to set the foundation for the sermon topic, I saw the door open and swing back vigorously and three armed guys had their guns out and they said, ‘everybody, don’t move. don’t move” One man had the gun on the Church, in front of the door and the other beelined straight to me and my wife,
What went through your mind when you saw the guns in your congregation?
My first thing was, I can’t believe these guys violated the church But the speed that they were coming down that aisle, I knew they weren’t coming for nobody else. My thought was that I want to surrender so my church would be okay. So my family could be okay. Because if I’m the one that they want, if I don’t resist, then I think everything’s going to be all right.
One of the young men put the pistol to my head. And then the young man put the gun in my wife’s face. And he had his gun in my daughter’s face because my wife had my eight-month-old baby in her hand. I just felt that I did what a leader would do, lay down his life. Because if I’m the target, do what you want to do with me and just let my family and let my church go. And I got down on the floor. And that’s why you see me saying ‘all right, all right, all right, okay, okay.
Your congregation and everyone must still feel a sense of fear after that. How are you dealing with that?
It’s a very traumatizing experience. One of the women of my church broke her foot when people started to get down. My wife didn’t come back to church last week, but I opened the doors to the church because God told me to open the door. And I am making therapy available to my family and congregation. I have four children and only two of my kids were there. My 14-year-old is afraid to go back into the church. She’s even afraid to wear jewelry now.
What’s the update on the investigation?
They’re not really telling me but I believe that it’s moving along. These guys left a lot of evidence. We know they jumped into a white Mercedes Benz.
There’s a lot of buzz in the media and on the internet that this was insurance fraud. But no one has offered any evidence. Why do you think this has become part of the narrative?
It’s unreal. They turned me from being a victim to a villain. I believe and don’t quote me, but I think it was about 12 to 15 pieces that were stolen between me and my wife, only three pieces were insured.
How is that rumor impacting you?
I’m into real estate. And people are backing out of deals because of all of the press. But, why in the world would I set myself up? Put my family and church in harm’s way? Think about that. If it was an insurance thing, right? Why would I do it in my church? Why not have it done when I’m driving or something? They could pull be over and then boom. I’m outside a lot. I don’t hide
It hurts me, that I’ve been attacked by not only the other races but our own people. They’re saying, why is a pastor wearing all these designers when we’re in a poor environment? I wear what I want to feel like (prosperous). Why is he taking money from a church? First of all I’m not on salary from the church. Number two: How are you guys automatically perceiving that my church is poor? I have a young ministry. We got all types of entrepreneurs. My church is not poor.
You don’t get paid by the church. Where does your money come from?
I’ve been in real estate for 20 years and investments. That’s where I make my money but I also want to give that knowledge back to my people so I offer free real estate classes. Anybody can take them. I teach about zoning. I teach about rezoning. I teach about purchases in apartment complexes. I teach about buying and flipping. I teach about what a real estate agent is supposed to be. A real estate lawyer. Your appraisal. I teach the foundation of real estate.
What was your childhood like?
I came from my era of going to the store with food stamps. I’m from Brooklyn.
I had to rip food stamps out of the book. I grew up on pork and beans and franks At the end of the day I believe my job is to make sure that I do better for myself, that I’m able to take care of my family And now it just seems like it’s taboo to become successful.. I’m not even saying I’m successful. I’m becoming successful right now. I’m nowhere near my full potential success.
Your dad, a respected businessman in the neighborhood who led job fairs and founded community groups, was brutally murdered by police in 1978. How did that impact you?
Growing up without a dad is such a disadvantage. You’re a boy growing up into manhood and you’re unable to see what a man looks like, number one, and you’re unable to see where you were made from. I was only six weeks old when my father was beaten and strangled to death by six officers because of the color of his skin. He did no wrong. I don’t know how my father smiled. I don’t know how he laughed. I had nothing to reference as I grew up. I had to learn how to be me all by myself. Now I have a son and I’m I try to teach him how to be a man and be himself as a father. I didn’t get that opportunity. My father was killed on June 14, 1978, and Father’s Day that year was June 18, So I never even had a Father’s Day with my father,
It brings out the little boy in me that yells and says, Dad. Why did you leave me by myself? Dad, you were supposed to be my protector. how could you leave me? But , then I got to toughen up. I got to do what I got to do, you know?
My father was going through a divorce with his wife, and that’s when he met my mom. So him and my mom were dating and then I came. So now I’m an outcast too to my siblings, because, I’m not a part of that marriage. And I’m rejected by them. So all around it was tough.
People talk about how they love Jesus. I really love Jesus because to go through all this adversity, my strength comes from what I understand about my God.
The media has focused on your 2008 conviction for alleged identity theft. You were sentenced to 10 to 30 years but you were released after 5 years of “glowing” behavior. Many White white-collar criminals who are convicted of much higher amounts of fraud do much less time and it’s usually in what they call a “country club” prison. Do you believe your sentence was fair?
I was convicted on some of the charges and I was acquitted of certain crimes. What people don’t know is that I was illegally convicted. I had search warrants that were forged by the police officers. When you get a search warrant, you need a judge to sign off on it. The only thing that was on the search warrants was a stamp.
Similar to the allegedly fraudulent no-knock warrant in the Breona Taylor case?
You paid your debt to society so to speak and when you were released what did you do next?
I’ve been giving back to the community. As soon as I got out, I started my church. What happened to redemption? What happened to restoration? I’ve been home nine years. Nine years without any issues.
What about the allegation from the alleged parishioner who is suing you for allegedly taking some money from her?
Legally, I can only tap into this a little bit. First of all, she was never a member of my church but that’s making the story look so good. The bishop steals $90,000 from his parishioner. But that’s a lie. Her son used to go to my church, and her son wanted to invest and was in the whole investment piece, and she gave to him. At the end of the day, I didn’t take anything from nobody. I don’t hurt nobody. And when you see this come out, you will see the truth. We already got one part of the victory. They put in motions to put me into default. And that was denied by the judge. I think he knows it’s bogus. They claim I hit them for $90,000 but they’re suing me for $1,000,000. It’s all about getting money.
Lastly, the media has raised the issues of judgments connected to your real estate business. What is the truth behind that?
When you are in real estate and when you’re in construction, there’s always going to be war. They (the construction company) don’t do what they are supposed to do. You sue them. They sue you Any real estate person knows. This is real estate, but the media is using it to make me look like I’ve been a villain. If you look at any real estate person that’s been in the game for a long time, that’s very successful, I guarantee you they have from 10 to 50 lawsuits against them.
Donald Trump claimed bankruptcy and had judgments against him. I am not a Trump fan. I don’t want anybody to get that twisted. But it is true that’s a very typical story of someone who is in real estate. Why are they castigating you for this without context?
They villainized my name and they discredit me as a victim. They want the world to believe that hmmm he’s a black man. Let’s mix this thing up. Let’s make him look like the villain because we don’t want this Black man to be looked at through the world as the victim and become more famous. No, we don’t want that, so we got to mix this whole thing up.
Your voice has certainly been amplified by this controversy. Do you think that this is part of God’s plan?
I was just reading a scripture today in the book of Joshua. God says, “I’m going to magnify you in this season.” You never know how God will magnify your name, so therefore He can get the glory. I don’t want people to know my name. I want people to know the glory of Jesus Christ. I want everybody to know that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. And the reason why I’m able to have the strength that I have is because of who God is in my life. The Bible says when we’re weak, he’s strong. I just want people to see Jesus. God gave me this platform. He saved my life. So I want to be able to allow this platform that God has given me to give Him glory.
Edited for brevity
You can catch the full conversation in the video at the top of the page. And please don’t forget to subscribe to Jazmyn Summers youtube.