A reverend who led a church in Chicago has been indicted on charges alleging that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a federal program intended to deed needy children.
Rev. Clarence Smith Jr. of the New Life Impact Church in Lawndale has been accused of spending $142,000 from the fund to purchase a Bentley and on other personal expenses.
The charges against Smith allege that he defrauded the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. The program is intended to provide meals for children in low-income neighborhoods and is administered by the Illinois State Board of Education.
As a sponsor of the program, Smith’s church was expected to feed children at different locations throughout the city and bill the state for the services.
According to the charges, Smith greatly inflated the number of meals he was serving and billed the state over $1 million in a period of a year.
The indictment alleges that Smith then deposited the checks into the church’s bank accounts and withdrew money in cash at ATM’s or by writing checks to pay for personal expenses.
On July 21, 2016, less than a week after receiving an $825,695 check from the state, Smith purchased a 2015 Bentley Flying Spur luxury sedan for $142,000. According to charges, he purchased the vehicle using a cashier’s check.
Allegedly, Smith hid the fraud by falsely claiming to the state Board of Education that he couldn’t produce records showing how many children he had fed because they were damaged in a flood.
This is not the first time the pastor has been accused of financial wrongdoing. According to court records, he plead guilty to using forged signatures to swindle an elderly man’s estate out of more than $100,000 nearly 10 years ago.
In 2012, while still owing $80,000 of the $100,000 in restitution, he filed personal bankruptcy, saying he only had $20 in cash on hand.
Records show he has been sued by at least two food supply companies for defaulting on contracts and currently owes more than $8,000 in overdue property taxes on his one-story brick church.
Meanwhile, he continues to promote his church on Facebook. Posting videos of himself preaching and urging followers to come to worship. A recent Facebook post referred to his legal trouble.
“One of the worst things in the world is not to learn from your prior mistakes,” he wrote Monday. “GOD has me doing a self-evaluation on where I messed up prior so I won’t do the same in the future.”
Smith remains free on his own recognizance after pleading not guilty in November to four fraud-related counts in U.S. District Court.