Embattled Bishop Lamor Whitehead filed false paperwork to claim possession of a church building whose congregation he then evicted, according to a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday.
The property in question, a nondescript low-slung building on Foster Avenue in East Flatbush, had served for nearly a decade as the house of worship for Glory of God Global Ministry before Whitehead changed the locks and kicked out the congregation of about 200 worshippers last December.
But according to the lawsuit, Whitehead never owned the property he evicted the ministry from.
The property was purchased by a trust owned by Maryland resident Michael Moses and his sister Lydia at a tax sale auction for $1.9 million in February of 2022, the suit says.
After that sale went through, Whitehead contacted the siblings to express interest in buying the building. In turn they granted him permission to evict the current tenants while securing financing for the property, the suit alleges.
Although Whitehead never got that financing, the suit alleges, he submitted a fraudulent new deed to the Office of the City Register in April that claimed he and his church, Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Canarsie, were the rightful owners.
“The fraudulent deed was executed and recorded without the knowledge and or consent of Plaintiff Michael Moses, the Trustee of the Trust,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks $3.5 million in damages from Whitehead and his church, and for the city to void their deed.
Reached on the phone Monday afternoon, Whitehead said he hadn’t yet been served a copy of the lawsuit so didn’t know the specifics but stressed that the allegation he filed a false deed was unfounded.
“That’s a frivolous lawsuit. That’s it,” he said, declining to provide additional details.
Attorneys for Michael and Lydia Moses, who claim ownership of the building, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The lawsuit is the latest legal hurdle for Whitehead. He faces federal charges for allegedly swindling one of his parishioners out of her life savings, a claim that was first reported by THE CITY. Prosecutors also allege he tried to force a businessman into giving him a $500,000 loan in exchange for “favorable actions” from New York City authorities that he “had no ability” to deliver on, and faked bank records to finance his New Jersey mansion.
Mayor Eric Adams has previously described Whitehead as “my good friend and good brother,” and called himself a mentor to the minister, who previously served time in prison for grand larceny and identity fraud. The relationship between the two men came under scrutiny after Whitehead was robbed of $1 million in jewelry during a sermon last July.
Church Community in Limbo
While Whitehead and the Moses siblings wrangle over ownership of the property in court, congregants who have prayed at the Foster Avenue building since 2014 found themselves without a house of worship after the minister suddenly gave them the boot as he looked to buy the building.
The lockout happened with no notice, according to Pastor Joseph Williams, the congregation’s leader, who recalled getting an alert from the church’s alarm system last December saying there’d been a break-in.
When Williams arrived at the church, he found the locks had been changed, according to photos submitted in state court. He said that police on the scene told him there was a new owner and he could do nothing about the congregation’s possessions that were still inside.
The ministry had to rent out a new church facility for several months and to halt a weekly food pantry that had served 200 families each Saturday, he said.
“It was so much on the members,” Williams said. “It’s very devastating.”
Glory of God Global Ministry sued last December, arguing Whitehead had illegally evicted them. Civil Court Judge Sandra Roper sided in the ministry’s favor, issuing an order restoring the building to its possession on Jan. 25.
When they finally got back inside in April, Williams said, the damage was immense. Photos taken outside the church and submitted in court showed many of the congregation’s belongings heaped into dumpsters.
Despite the damage, Glory of God Global Ministry started worshiping again on Foster Avenue last month and reopened the food pantry, Williams told THE CITY.
“Everybody is happy,” he said. “They’re praying. It has been tough.”
The claim that Whitehead may not be the owner of the building in the first place came as another surprise for Williams.
“It’s a big shock,” he said. “I leave everything in the hands of God.”
Asked about the congregation’s eviction from Foster Avenue, Whitehead defended his tactics.
“They’re illegally occupying the building, and when we go back to court they’ll be removed,” he said, before hanging up.