NY's ‘Bling Bishop’ asked God to ‘take vengeance’ on victim’s son, witness testifies

NEW YORK — Brooklyn preacher Lamor Whitehead asked God to smite one of his parishioners while refusing to return his mother’s life savings, jurors heard in witness testimony at the “bling bishop’s” Manhattan fraud trial on Tuesday.

“I know he was berating Rasheed in (a) text and he was basically asking God to exact vengeance on him,” Pauline Anderson said in Manhattan Federal Court on the second day of Whitehead’s trial.

Anderson said the threats came more than six months after Whitehead convinced her and her son, Rasheed Anderson, to empty her retirement savings in late 2020 — promising he’d use the funds to buy her a fixer-upper home — and then disappeared with the cash.

Federal prosecutors say Whitehead, a flamboyant figure and friend of Mayor Adams, ripped off Pauline Anderson, drew up fake bank documents, tried to extort a businessman and lied to the FBI, charges he denies.

Anderson, who’s separately suing the pastor, said that she got involved with Whitehead when her son informed her of services at his church, Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministry in Canarsie, Brooklyn, helping congregants improve their credit scores. She said Whitehead presided over Rasheed’s wedding and introduced him to contacts who helped him secure his own home.

After several back-and-forths and a failed loan application, Anderson testified that the pastor convinced her to trust him with a decade’s worth retirement savings from her career as a nurse so he could invest the funds in his company and use proceeds to buy her a home and renovate it. The 58-year-old said he promised to pay her $100 a month to live off after convincing her to liquidate her savings with no other income. Prosecutors presented a copy of a cashier’s check for $90,015 with Whitehead’s signature on the back, which Anderson said she asked her son to give him at Sunday Mass.

“I felt he was honestly advising me. I felt that he was truthful and that I would actually benefit from it,” an emotional Anderson said, later adding, “I trusted him. He said he had real estate experience. He was a man of God — he prayed for me in earnest. I believe in God, so I believed he would honestly help me to get this house.”

As months passed by and Anderson still had no new home, she said she faced the prospect of homelessness alongside her elderly mom when the landlord of her apartment put it on the market. Soon after, she said she started to worry when her son told her that he and the bishop had a falling out.

Jurors saw text messages of Anderson reaching out to Whitehead in May 2021 seeking to get the money back herself. At that point, the pastor promised he was “a man of integrity and you will not lose,” vaguely claiming the money had already been invested and that he couldn’t get it back for her for at least a year — or give her any of his own cash while running to succeed Adams as Brooklyn borough president.

“After my campaign, I’ll see what I can do,” Whitehead, whose political aspirations went nowhere, texted Anderson, saying he would “flip a few properties” to get her back the cash by August or September, text messages showed.

Anderson said the money never came and Whitehead rarely put anything — including a contract — in writing. The pastor eventually dropped the niceties, threatening her son and the invoking the wrath of God.

The feds say Anderson is one of several people the fashion-loving Whitehead conned to pad his wallet — and his closet — and that he was “willing to lie, cheat and steal to keep up his appearance of wealth.”

He’s also accused of attempting to bully a Bronx auto body shop owner out of $5,000 and lying to him about lucrative City Hall connections to get $500,000 more; submitting fake bank records purporting to show he had millions in an account that held $6 when seeking a $250,000 loan to finance his palatial New Jersey mansion; and lying to the FBI.

Whitehead, arrested in December 2022, has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI. Among other arguments, he alleges that Anderson’s son was the one who ripped her off and that Bronx businessman Brandon Belmonte slandered him to save himself in another case.

The 47-year-old pastor made headlines in 2022 when he publicly tried to broker the surrender of Q Train shooter Andrew Abdullah and was robbed at gunpoint of $1 million of jewelry while delivering a live-streamed sermon.

A self-described “mentee” of Adams, Whitehead’s relationship with the pol dates back to when Adams was Brooklyn BP.

Adams, whose campaign fundraising is the subject of a separate federal investigation, has not been accused of wrongdoing. Asked about the Whitehead case, he’s pointed out that prosecutors say Whitehead knew he could not deliver on promises of favors from City Hall.