Cops: Florida Pastor Secretly Sold Church For Drugs

Miami’s ABC affiliate reports:

A Broward County pastor has been arrested on multiple charges after he defrauded a church to support his drug habit, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Wednesday. According to the FDLE, James Edward Smith II, 49, of Lauderhill, was the pastor of the New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Pompano Beach.

Agents began investigating him last April after they said they received complaints from parishioners and church founders.

According to an FDLE news release, Smith fraudulently gained control over the church and church funds by filing a forged quit claim deed, “allowing him to assume complete control of the church property and then sold it for $600,000, using the money to support a drug habit.”

From the Florida state police:

Smith was charged with organized scheme to defraud, fraud, grand theft, criminal use of personal identification information, unlawful filing of false document records against real or personal property, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm by convicted felon and violation of probation. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office assisted with the case.

In connection to the investigation, Smith is also being charged by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for larceny and fraud associated with worthless checks totaling more than $1,600 written on the church’s bank account.

FDLE agents arrested Smith yesterday and he was booked into the Broward County Jail. The Lauderhill Police Department Special Enforcement Team, Broward County sheriff’s deputies and the Florida Department of Corrections Probation Office assisted with the arrest. A search of Smith’s residence revealed heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and a stolen firearm. Additional charges are pending.