Two of the top leaders of a racist “hate group” have admitted to diverting $5.3 million in church donations and using it to buy Gucci handbags and other luxury items.
The two members of the Harlem, New York-based Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, Jermaine Grant and Lincoln Warrington, reportedly stole the money and then hid the scheme from the IRS.
[Grant] pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Newark. He could face up to five years and $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced in July, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.
The church treasurer, Lincoln Warrington, 49, of Teaneck, in Bergen County, also pleaded guilty and admitted conspiring with Grant to help him divert the donations and evade taxes.
Federal prosecutors said Grant failed to pay about $250,000 in taxes after misusing millions of dollars in church money between 2007 and 2015. Grant spent church funds on vacations in Florida, designer clothing, shoes, and accessories, including two Gucci handbags that cost more than $3,000 each, along with electronic devices and home furnishings.
The money also was used to purchase real estate for Grant and his family in New Jersey, New York, and Florida; to pay for his children’s private-school tuition; and to buy and lease vehicles including a 2010 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and a 2014 Kawasaki recreational vehicle, prosecutors said. His children were driven to school in a chauffeured Mercedes, according to the indictment.
I’m guessing this is not how church members imagined their contributions being spent.
The tax evasion is bad enough on its own, but making the whole story even more disturbing is how Grant and Warrington’s church has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the SPLC has its issues, here’s why they give the designation to this particular group:
… It is on the extremist fringe of the Hebrew Israelite movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. The church preaches that blacks are the “true Jews,” while “Jews are devilish impostors and white people are evil personified, deserving of death or slavery,” the Law Center says.
The Law Center also reported that Grant called himself the “Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah,” in 2009, saying that he was the “Holy Spirit” and that a “vengeful black Jesus would soon return to Earth to kill or enslave all whites.”
While I have never interacted with this specific group, I have been the target of some serious hatred being spread by a similar cult. Last year, I wrote about a Chicago Black Hebrew Israelites group that said God will kill black women “in masses” if they “talk back” to men.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the penalty for their crimes in this case, if the men are found guilty, would be severe:
The tax fraud conspiracy charge to which Grant and Warrington pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If accepted by the court, the plea agreement further provides that each defendant will be sentenced to a maximum of 30 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 23, 2019.
That date can’t come soon enough.
(Image via Shutterstock)