Chicago Pastor Charged With Fraud

oliver-spencer-7Zc4h74Va8c-unsplash-copy-200x300A Chicago pastor has been charged with fraud after bilking funds earmarked for needy children to purchase a Bentley. Federal authorities allege that Rev. Clarence Smith Jr. stole thousands of dollars from a federal program that helped feed children whose parents could not afford to feed them. Authorities say that Smith used the money to buy a $142,000 Bentley and for other expenses that had nothing to do with starving children. 

Smith’s ministry is geared toward those who had a history of criminal activity. The motto outside of his church reads: “Ministry meaningful to the imperfect man.” Smith was convicted a decade ago of using forged signatures to rob the estate of a dead man of over $100,000. 

Since his release from prison, Smith has had some financial struggles. In 2012, he filed for bankruptcy, claiming that he only had $20 to his name. He was still paying restitution for the theft for which he went to prison. Court records show that he owed the man’s estate an estimated $80,000. He also owed $8,000 in overdue property taxes for his church. 

Smith has pleaded not guilty on four counts of fraud.

Swindling Federal Programs

Swindling federal programs is generally not a good idea. While it can bring in enough money to purchase a Bentley, your financial records are still available to the state. The state is going to wonder, on your current income, how you were able to afford a luxury vehicle. 

These charges are strangely similar to another Chicago pastor who was also accused of fraud. This pastor too chose to use money he gained from state subsidies to finance his Bentley. Herman Jackson was sentenced to five years in prison for that charge, but Smith’s sentence may be longer since he has been convicted of fraud in the past.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program

The program that Smith is accused of defrauding is the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The program issues funds to neighborhoods with needy people and helps ensure that they get food. New Life, Smith’s ministry, acted as a sponsor for the program. 

Smith took their money and fed some children, but federal authorities say that he vastly inflated the number of children he had fed with the government’s money. He billed the state $1 million, which they paid in two installments. 

Smith deposited the checks into his church bank accounts, and then withdrew the funds from ATMs or in the form of checks used for personal expenses. This included the $142,000 Bentley which he paid for with a cashier’s check. However, Smith got into trouble when a number of lawsuits came to light from food vendors who claimed that Smith never paid them for their food.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing federal fraud charges, then you need an attorney who is experienced handling cases in federal courts. David Freidberg has defended a number of clients from federal charges and can handle your case, as well. Call us soon at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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