Florida Pastor Sells Church to Support His Drug Habit

Florida Pastor James Edward Smith II, 49, of Lauderhill, was taken into custody by Special Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for allegedly defrauding the New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Pompano Beach to get money to support his drug habit.

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Investigators with FDLE said that the investigation into Smith began in April 2022, when they received complaints from church parishioners and founders that Smith had fraudulently gained control of the church and its money.

James Edward Smith II

Detectives said Smith forged a quit claim deed, allowing him to assume control of the church’s property, which he sold for $600,000. Smith is accused of using the money to support a drug habit.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office assisted FDLE with the investigation.

FDLE agents arrested Smith on Thursday and booked him 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.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said James Edward 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.

According to FDLE, When Smith was arrested, police searched his residence and found heroin, methamphetamine, cannabis, and a stolen gun.

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.

Smith was transported to the Broward County Jail and is currently held without bond at the Broward County Main Jail on 12 charges.

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The Office of the State Attorney, 17th Judicial Circuit, will prosecute the case.

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