CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago pastor accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a food program that helps feed needy children allegedly used $142,000 of that money to buy himself a luxury car, federal prosecutors said.
Clarence Smith Jr. fraudulently received more than $900,000 that New Life Community Ministries received from a federally-funded food program through the Illinois State Board of Education, an indictment alleges.
Prosecutors said Smith took that money but didn’t follow through with providing meals to poor children at his church in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood.
Court records allege that Smith deposited checks into his own bank account and then used $142,000 to buy himself a Bentley. Investigators said he tried to cover that up by claiming his financial records were damaged in a flood.
The 45-year-old pastor denied the allegations on 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 in a statement.
The Illinois State Board of Education confirmed Friday that New Life Community Ministries’ participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program was terminated in 2016 for not providing records of meals claimed. The Board of Education claimed at that time that the organization owed the state $3.3 million.