Chicago minister accused of laying hands on church charity fund to buy $142K Bentley
A Chicago minister is being accused of embezzling money from a federal program meant to feed impoverished children and instead used the money to purchase a $142,000 Bentley for himself.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Rev. Clarence Smith Jr. of the New Life Impact Church has pleaded not guilty to four counts of fraud in U.S. District Court after allegedly over-reporting to the state how many children his church had fed through the program, so that he could submit a bill for $1 million.
After the invoice was paid, authorities believe he purchased the luxury sedan while also writing personal checks to himself.
As a sponsor of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the federal program agreed to reimburse the New Life Impact Church for providing healthy meals and snacks to children, the elderly and those with disabilities.
Court documents show the church vowed to serve meals to children around the city and then bill the state of Illinois for their services, but starting in October, the feds believe Smith began doctoring his records.
As a result, the state honored the $1 million request, which was paid in two separate checks in July 2016. Although Smith deposited the checks into the church bank account, he soon after began withdrawing cash and writing checks for expenses that were totally unrelated to the church.
When the Illinois Board of Education, which locally administers the program, asked for proof of the number of children the church had served meals, Smith told them his records “had been damaged in a flood and were no longer available.”
Making matters worse is that this isn’t the first time that the minister has been accused of financial fraud. The Tribune reports, “Nearly a decade ago, he pleaded guilty in DuPage County to using forged signatures to swindle an elderly man’s estate out of more than $100,000, court records show.”
While this current investigation is underway, Smith continues to promote his church on Facebook, often posting long videos of himself preaching and urging followers to come to worship.
“One of the worst things in the world is not to learn from your prior mistakes,” he wrote Monday in a post alluding to his legal woes. “GOD has me doing a self-evaluation on where I messed up prior so I won’t do the same in the future.”