The leader of a black nationalist church that’s been labeled a hate group lived a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars, designer clothing and private school for some of his children, according to federal prosecutors.
Jermaine Grant and another official at the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ (ICGJC) used their high-ranking positions to divert millions of dollars in church funds to a fake entertainment company, and to Grant, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced Wednesday.
Grant, 43, and Lincoln Warrington, 48, diverted the money over nine years, starting in January 2007, authorities allege.
Grant used an ICGJC debit card to buy luxury items, high-end cars (including a chauffeur), furniture and trips to Disneyland and other resorts, prosecutors said. An indictment alleges he shopped at Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Nieman Marcus outlets in Paramus, New Jersey, the Courier Post reported.
Grant and Warrington, a treasurer, accomplished the alleged fraud by creating Black Icon Entertainment to make Grant look like an entertainment mogul, officials said. But the company has no “legitimate” business and is funded almost exclusively by the church, Carpenito’s office said.
The New Jersey duo put about $2.4 million in church funds into the phony company, authorities allege, and concealed the money on Grant’s and BIE’s federal income tax returns.
The men didn’t report more than $5 million in income from the church from 2007 through 2015, authorities said. The U.S. lost almost $2 million in taxes as a result.
Grant, who’s the head of the New York-based black separatist group, has preached that a black Jesus will return to earth to enslave and kill white people, NJ.com reported. The organization is part of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which believes black people are descendants of ancient Israelites.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups and extremism, included the church in a 2017 list of black nationalist hate groups.
SPLC has described the organization as a “black nationalist religious group that preaches an anti-white, anti-Semitic message,” the Courier Post reported. It listed multiple locations for the church, including one in Orlando, Florida.
Grant and Warrington are both charged with conspiring to defraud the United States. Grant also faces charges of personal income tax evasion, officials said.
Grant’s attorney didn’t respond to NJ.com’s request for comment. Warrington’s lawyer declined to comment.