A Chicago pastor is accused of taking nearly $1 million from a federally-funded food program for needy children and using some of the money to buy a Bentley.
Federal prosecutors said Rev. Clarence Smith Jr., who was in charge of New Life Impact Church, was charged with fraud for stealing more than $900,000 given to the church for a federally-funded food program run by the Illinois State Board of Education, the New York Post reported.
Prosecutors say the 45-year-old took the checks meant to feed hungry children and deposited them into his personal bank account.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Smith then allegedly used the money to buy himself a brand new Bentley Flying Spur luxury sedan with a price tag of about $142,000.
Smith was released on his own recognizance after he pleaded not guilty to four counts of fraud in federal court.
Resident Ravin Cosey said the pastor’s lavish spending habits raised red flags before the authorities conducted their investigation.
“He was coming around in Jordans and Bentleys and new cars, and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, pastors don’t do that,’” Cosey told WLS-TV.
Smith responded to the fraud allegations in a statement released Friday.
“I totally deny any and all allegations of fraud. I’ve served the community for years and will let this play out in court,” Smith told WLS-TV.