A Teaneck preacher who led a religious hate group admitted in federal court in Newark on Wednesday that he stole what prosecutors said was more than $5.3 million from the organization over nearly a decade to pay for luxury cars, lavish vacations and private school for his children.
As part of a plea deal with the government, Lincoln Warrington, 48, admitted pocketing the money from his Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ (ICGJC) through a dummy entertainment company that he created with Jermaine Grant, 43, of Burlington Township.
Grant, the organization's treasurer, admitted conspiring to defraud the United States, as well.
As part of the scheme, Grant and Warrington -- known as "Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah" -- created Black Icon Entertainment (BIE) "in order to portray Grant as an entertainment industry mogul whose wealth was derived from his professional success," U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
BIE "conducted no legitimate business" and was funded "almost exclusively by money taken from the ICGJC," he said.
Warrington used nearly $3 million of the money, mostly on an ICGJC debit card, to buy luxury cars, designer clothing and real estate, take trips to Disneyland and other resorts with his family and pay for private school for some of his kids, Carpenito said.
The children were chauffeured in a Mercedes Benz van also paid for with ICGJC funds, he said.
Warrington and Grant admitted conspiring not to report the $5,342,920 stolen from ICGJC from 2007 through 2015 -- avoiding $1,982,470 in taxes by doing so, the U.S. attorney said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has dubbed the Harlem-based Church of God in Jesus Christ a black nationalist hate group. The organization -- part of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement -- preaches that blacks are among the lost tribes of Israel.
Grant himself has claimed that a black Jesus will return to Earth to kill and enslave whites.
As part of a plea agreement with the government, the church must present a plan "designed to ensure the church’s compliance with applicable federal income tax laws going forward" before their July 23 sentencings in U.S. District Court in Newark, Carpenito said.
The compliance plan must address how any seized cash or property that the government returns to the church goes toward its benefit -- and not in Wallington's or Grant's pockets, the U.S. attorney added.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and IRS with making the case, prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig and Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret A. Mahoney.
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