A Broward pastor fraudulently took control over a church and sold it for over half a million dollars, defrauding parishioners and church founders to fuel a drug habit, authorities said.
James Edward Smith II, 49, was arrested Tuesday by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents, the agency said.
He is facing multiple charges of 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. As of Wednesday, he was still in jail on a $50,000 bond.
A native South Floridian, Smith was a third-generation pastor who led New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, 1881 NW Ninth St., according to the church’s website. During his ministry, he mentored young men without fathers at home.
He also was a board member of Elijah’s House for Ex-offenders and a member of the Broward County Coalition for Ex-offenders.
The FDLE began investigating Smith in April when the agency received complaints from parishioners and church founders that Smith fraudulently gained control over the church and its funds.
He filed a forged quit claim deed to assume complete control over the church property and then sold it for $600,000, the FDLE said. He then used the money to support a drug habit., FDLE said.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office also charged Smith with fraud in connection to worthless checks of more than $1,600 on the church’s bank account.
After Smith was arrested, authorities found heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and a stolen firearm in his home, authorities said.