A Florida pastor was arrested Tuesday on charges of defrauding his church to fund his drug use.
New Jerusalem Baptist Church Pastor James Edward Smith II, 49, of Pompano Beach, Florida, was arrested on multiple charges related to stealing and selling church property for $600,000, WIOD reported. An investigation into Smith started in April 2020 after his parishioners and church founders complained that he had fraudulently gained control over the church and its funds.
Smith allegedly forged a quit claim that allowed him to control church property, which he subsequently sold in order to support his drug use, WIOD continued. He has also been charged with larceny and fraud associated with bounced checks worth more than $1,600, drawn on the church’s bank account.
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After his arrest, he was booked into Broward County Jail. Local law enforcement subsequently searched his home, finding heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and a stolen firearm, which led to additional charges.
In total, Smith is facing charges related to his alleged organized scheme to defraud the church, fraud, grand theft, criminal use of personal identification information, unlawful filing of false document records against real or personal property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, grand theft of a firearm, and violation of his probation, WIOD stated. (RELATED: Another Case Of The Mondays? Let This Florida Man Cheer You Up)
More charges are pending, according to NBC Miami. He appeared in bond court on Wednesday, his lawyer requesting for a reduction in his fee to a total of $20,000. The request was rejected, as seen in a video shared by NBC.