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Press Release

Champaign Pastor Pleads Guilty to Misapplying Federal Funds and Bankruptcy Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – Lekevie C. Johnson, 47, formerly of the 2000 block of Clayton Boulevard in Champaign, Illinois, pleaded guilty on December 1, 2022, to Federal Program Misapplication, Student Loan Misapplication, and False Statement in Bankruptcy. Sentencing for Johnson has been scheduled on April 10, 2023, at the U.S. Courthouse in Urbana, Illinois.

In court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long, Johnson admitted that he was formerly the pastor of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, formerly known as Jericho Missionary Baptist Church, on Bloomington Road in Champaign. Between 2012 and 2019, he operated a not-for-profit corporation, Life Line Champaign, Inc., which received federal grant funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, through the City of Champaign, to provide summer enrichment programs for low-income students in the Garden Hills neighborhood where the church was located. Johnson admitted misapplying $25,700.74 of HUD program grant funds for his own benefit, including by making numerous ATM cash withdrawals at various casinos.

Johnson also admitted that he had obtained federal student loans between 2017 and 2019 to attend Liberty University’s online Master of Arts program. Prior to receiving the loans, Johnson certified that he would use the loans only for authorized educational expenses. Nonetheless, Johnson used $31,291.62 of the loans for various non-educational expenses, including to gamble at casinos.

Finally, Johnson admitted to committing bankruptcy fraud. On January 31, 2020, Johnson and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Central District of Illinois. In his petition, Johnson claimed that he received only $42,900 from his church in 2019, even though he received tens of thousands of additional monies from the church that year. On March 5, 2020, Johnson testified under oath at a bankruptcy hearing that he had disclosed all the payments he received from the church and had no control over the church’s finances. In fact, Johnson controlled the church’s finances and had received tens of thousands of dollars in payments from the church that he had not disclosed in bankruptcy.

Johnson was released on bond pending sentencing.

For Federal Program Misapplication, Johnson faces statutory penalties of a maximum ten-year term of imprisonment, a maximum $250,000 fine, and a maximum three-year term of supervised release. For Student Loan Misapplication and False Statement in Bankruptcy, Johnson faces separate statutory penalties of a maximum five-year term of imprisonment, a maximum $250,000 fine, and a maximum three-year term of supervised release.

The case investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Field Office; Department of Housing and Urban Development—Office of Inspector General; and the Department of Education – Office of Inspector General. The U.S. Trustee for Region 10 referred the alleged bankruptcy fraud to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The U.S. Trustee Program is the component of the Justice Department that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. Region 10 is headquartered in Indianapolis, with additional offices in South Bend, Indiana, and Peoria, Illinois.

Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene L. Miller is representing the government in the prosecution.

Updated December 2, 2022

Topics
Financial Fraud