Multiple fraud and theft charges filed
FDLE agents arrested James Edward Smith II, 49, of Lauderhill, on multiple charges related to fraud and grand theft involving a Pompano Beach church.
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. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office assisted with the case. Smith was the pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Pompano Beach.
FDLE began its investigation last April after receiving complaints from parishioners and church founders that Smith fraudulently gained control over the church and church funds. The investigation shows Smith filed a forged quit claim deed allowing him to assume complete control of the church property and then sold it for $600,000, using the money to support a drug habit.
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.
FDLE agents arrested Smith yesterday and he was booked 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. A search of Smith’s residence revealed heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and a stolen firearm. Additional charges are pending.
The case will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney, 17th Judicial Circuit.