Jermaine Grant, the leader of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, showed up at the federal courthouse in Newark, NJ, Tuesday afternoon with about 100 of his followers, each dressed in robes reminiscent of the Hebrew priesthood.
Grant was there to answer to charges of tax evasion along with his church’s treasurer, Lincoln Warrington. According to USA Today, “They face charges of tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the United States by not paying taxes on church money that the government claims funded Grant’s personal expenses, including goods from Gucci and Louis Vuitton, according to the federal court document charging them.
“Authorities allege Grant and Warrington dodged taxes by moving about $2.4 million from the church through Black Icon Entertainment [which he has 50% ownership of] between 2007 and 2015, according to the document. Authorities also say Grant also received about $2.9 million in income from the church, which he didn’t report on his federal income tax returns.”
After entering a not guilty pleas, Grant told reporters outside the courtroom, “Listen, if anybody got a problem with an $800 pair of shoes or a $500 pair of shoes, the problem should be with the people that’s charging $500 for their shoes.”
Describing himself as the “apostle and chief high priest” of his organization, Grant said, “For a long time now, the government of the United States of America has been having a practice of setting up blacks and Hispanics in this country and framing them and charging them. Any intelligent person knows the grand jury process is completely unfair and biased towards the prosecutors. The prosecutor can get anybody charged. Of course, I’m not guilty.”
Grant’s group is the largest in the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which was founded on the belief that emancipated slaves were God’s true “chosen people.”
Grant’s detractors, former members of the group, say the “chief high priest” demands a 20% tithe of members’ personal income.