NEW YORK (AP) — Two men were arrested Wednesday for the robbery of a flashy Brooklyn pastor who was delivering a sermon in July about keeping faith when gun-toting masked men crashed the service and stole over $1 million in jewelry from the pastor and his wife.
The men processed in Brooklyn federal court were identified as Say-Quan Pollack and Juwan Anderson, both 23. Authorities said a third person charged in the case remained at large. Lawyers for the men declined comment. Anderson was to be released on $50,000 bail while Pollack was detained pending a bail application.
The men stole jewelry from the pastor, Lamor Miller-Whitehead, and his wife, “terrifying the congregation in the process,” after entering the church service masked and clad in black, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said in a statement.
Miller-Whitehead, known for a flashy persona that includes expensive jewelry and travel in his Rolls Royce, is a friend of New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The former police captain got to know Miller-Whitehead while serving as Brooklyn's borough president for eight years before he became mayor in January.
At a news conference, James Essig, chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, said police detectives from the Brooklyn robbery squad and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used video and electronic tracking methods to help solve the crime.
NYPD Inspector Nicholas Fiore said federal charges brought under the Hobbs Act were favored in the prosecution because the charges carry a potential 10-year minimum prison sentence upon conviction because the robbery was carried out with a firearm.
Fiore called the robbery “pretty rough,” noting that a gun was directed at a child at one point.
If convicted of charges including robbery conspiracy and robbery, the men could face up to life in prison.
Federal prosecutors are seeking pretrial detention for Pollack, saying in a court filing that his criminal history, overwhelming evidence of his guilt and the high penalties he faces after conviction make him a danger to the community and a threat to flee.
At the time of the robbery, Miller-Whitehead's sermon was being livestreamed online. Moments before the robbers entered the scene, Miller-Whitehead could be heard asking parishioners: “How many of you have lost faith because you saw somebody else die?”
Miller-Whitehead, 44, formed Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in 2013, after serving a five-year prison sentence for identity theft and grand larceny. Whitehead claims he was illegally convicted.
Miller-Whitehead came to federal court Wednesday in part to dispel any notions that he was in on the crime, saying outside court that he hoped the arrests put to rest false rumors "that I had something to do with this. ... My family and my church have been very traumatized. I’m hoping we get justice.”
Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.