Adams-Connected Bishop Allegedly Stiffed Campaign Worker While Accepting ‘Not Legal’ $150K Contribution
Bishop Lamor Whitehead's unpopular 2021 campaign for Brooklyn Borough President was funded by a “not legal” loan that became a massive contribution.
2:15 PM EDT on August 24, 2022
It’s been a very busy few months for Bishop Lamor Whitehead.
The Brooklyn-based spiritual leader, who has served prison time for grand larceny and identity fraud, regularly touts his connections to Mayor Eric Adams. Whitehead first made headlines in May when he tried to contact Adams while attempting to negotiate the surrender of a gunman who killed a man on the Q train. Then, in July, Whitehead was robbed during a sermon in Canarsie, where gunmen allegedly took off with "over a million" in jewelry, all captured on a livestream of the service. Days later, the CITY reported that a parishioner of Whitehead's Canarsie-based ministry was suing him, claiming that he defrauded her out of her life savings.
Now, another former parishioner is claiming that Whitehead owes him thousands of dollars related to work done for the flashy bishop during his unsuccessful 2021 run for Brooklyn borough president. Publicly available campaign records also show that the bishop was the recipient of a $150,000 contribution to his campaign, far more than the City's $1,500 limit for contributions during the 2021 election—a brazen violation of the City's campaign finance laws, according to one good government group.
Even with the way over-the-limit donation, 38-year-old Crown Heights resident Yves André told Hell Gate he wasn't paid for much of the work he did for the campaign as its voter outreach director, and that Whitehead was slow to pay the campaign workers he was supervising, forcing André to pay them with thousands of dollars out of his own pocket.
"I was putting everybody on my own Cash App," André said. "I was caught up in a situation with frustrated workers where someone had to pay them for their work, the pay checks were late, so I paid them myself." (Hell Gate has reviewed receipts showing the payments to campaign workers.)
Reached by phone on Tuesday morning, Whitehead told Hell Gate that he didn't know André, and that he was "just another person that wants to get paid."
"People are clout chasing, man," Whitehead said. "I know nothing about him."
In 2016, then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called Whitehead his "good friend" and “brother." Their relationship has roots that go back to the 1978 death of Whitehead's father, Brooklyn businessman Arthur Miller, who died in a police chokehold. Earlier this year, in a highly unusual arrangement, Whitehead claimed to help arrange the surrender of Andrew Abdullah, who fatally shot Daniel Enriquez on the Q train, before the NYPD arrested Abdullah outside of Legal Aid’s Brooklyn office. "As a Black man, I have an obligation to mentor other Black men that had negative encounters in their lives and other people in general," Adams told reporters this summer, when asked about his relationship with Whitehead. "And that's what I will continue to do."
City Hall did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
André, the campaign worker, recounted that he first met Whitehead in the spring of 2021, just months before the borough president primary election. André said Whitehead pulled his fancy car up alongside him on on Franklin Avenue, and exchanged contact information.
"He told me he was going to be the 'borough president bishop,' and asked if I wanted to work on his campaign," André recalled.
At the time, André was running a record label in Brooklyn and a juice shop in Jamaica, Queens. But, he explained, because the pandemic was hurting both businesses badly, he put everything on hold to help Whitehead run for Eric Adams's old office.
That work included hiring people to hand out campaign cards, planning campaign events, and responding to late-night requests from Whitehead, whom André described as hard-charging and exact about what he wanted. But for all the bishop's demands, André said, compensation was slow to come. André kept getting promises that the money was on the way.
"He told me not to worry, because the City was going to double each contribution through matching funds, so he'd have a lot more money soon," he said. "He's a bishop, I just thought his word was his bond."
Whitehead paid André $3,000 for his work, documents provided to Hell Gate confirmed. But another $7,000 in salary and reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses were apparently never paid. When André reached out to Whitehead to ask for the remaining money a few weeks after the election, Whitehead texted him that the "campaign is over."
André has now filed a summons in Kings County Supreme Court against Whitehead—the first step a plaintiff needs to take in a lawsuit. André is seeking $50,000 for the missed payments, as well as damages for "pain and suffering."
A separate lawsuit filed by Pauline Anderson, a 56-year-old parishioner of Whitehead's, claims Whitehead took $90,000 Anderson had given him as money to help buy her a house as a campaign donation instead. The $90,000 never showed up on Whitehead's filings with the City's Campaign Finance Board.
While André is still fighting "day and night" for his money, other people connected to Whitehead’s 2021 campaign did get paid—quite a lot.
Qeften Consulting, a firm run by Jarvis Houston, the former chief of staff of Brooklyn state Senator Jesse Hamilton, made over $64,000 for consulting on the campaign, according to publicly available campaign records—the single largest recipient of Whitehead's campaign funds. Hell Gate reached out to Qeften Consulting for comment, but has not heard back.
During his run for borough president, Whitehead received $57,518 in contributions. Only $21,000 came from small-dollar donations from Brooklyn, well short of the $50,000 threshold needed to qualify for the City's public financing matching program.
The rest of Whitehead's over $242,000 in campaign funding came from two loans. One of these he made himself, and it was subsequently paid back by the campaign. The other, a $150,000 loan made to the campaign by a Florida businesswoman, has yet to be paid back, according to public records.
Under New York City election law, loans that aren't paid back by election day "are considered to be contributions." The limit on individual contributions for the 2021 election cycle was $1,500, one-tenth the size of the donation.
Hell Gate tried to contact Josette Bayoro, the Florida-based woman who made the loan to Whitehead, but was unsuccessful. During a press conference after Whitehead was robbed, WNBC attempted to ask about the loan, but an assistant to Whitehead ended the press conference abruptly, saying he would "take no more questions at this time." Whitehead kept talking though, insisting that the public information about the loan was "inaccurate."
Asked about the loan from Bayoro, Whitehead said, "Everything that was donated to my campaign was all paid back. Everything was taken care of."
Whitehead’s campaign netted him only 4,063 votes out of a total 288,500 cast, even with the spending of the full amount of the loan.
"It's clear that this is not legal—not a murky legal question," said Rachael Fauss of Reinvent Albany, an organization that tracks transparency in New York politics. "It's a pretty clear-cut case, which is rare when it comes to election law."
According to the Campaign Finance Board, its civil penalty for a loan that becomes an illegal contribution is the full amount of the overage on the contribution—plus another 25 percent of the overage. That math would put Whitehead on the hook for a possible penalty of $185,625. But since the board has a statutory maximum penalty of $10,000, Whitehead could still walk away with having illegally spent $148,5000 on his campaign. If Whitehead has paid back the loan already, he's still subject to a fine of 25 percent of that $148,500 amount.
Any action from the Campaign Finance Board is likely years away. The board is still auditing the hundreds of campaigns from the 2021 election cycle, a process they expect to continue through 2025 as they collect more information from campaigns. A report from the Whitehead campaign that was due on July 15 was not turned in on time and remains missing.
"Our audits help ensure that all campaigns are playing by the same set of rules during City elections," a spokesperson for the Campaign Finance Board told us.
Asked about the late report, Whitehead didn't directly answer. "Everything was paid back already, I'm leaving it at that," he said.
He noted that his campaign did not end in debt—which is true, though that appears to be thanks to the unrepaid loan from Bayoro.
The Campaign Finance Board can refer cases of possibly illegal conduct to local prosecutors, but a spokesperson for the Brooklyn district attorney's office says they're not aware of any investigations of Whitehead stemming from the 2021 campaign.
For André, the campaign worker, this type of conduct lines up with how the Bishop operates—taking money from one person to pay another. And some who are owed might not be willing to go to court to get it back.
"I have a lot of experience with lawsuits, I've got no problem doing this through the system," said André, who has not yet gotten a lawyer to help him with an eventual lawsuit.
As for the robbery, the Brooklyn DA's office told Hell Gate they have no new updates to share. The NYPD is still searching for the three suspects who stormed into the event hall where Whitehead holds services. When we visited the event hall in Canarsie last week, workers at the space said they hadn't seen Whitehead for a few weeks.
André had to close up his juice shop in Jamaica. He said he fell behind on expenses after paying money to the campaign workers himself. He also said he doesn't owe anybody money at this time, and is supporting himself by selling tour bus tickets at night in Times Square.
"You don't want to be owing people money," André said. "That gives you a bad reputation in the neighborhood, on the block, and you definitely don't want that, for a bunch of reasons."
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