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Press Release

Former Champaign, Illinois, Pastor Sentenced to 10 Months of Imprisonment for Misapplying Federal Funds and Bankruptcy Fraud

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

URBANA, Ill. – A Champaign, Illinois, man, Lekevie C. Johnson, formerly of the 2000 block of Clayton Boulevard, was sentenced on April 10, 2023, to 10 months of imprisonment and ordered to pay $59,358.90 restitution following his December 2022 guilty pleas to financial crimes including federal program misapplication, student loan misapplication, and false statement in bankruptcy.

Johnson was formerly the pastor of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, previously known as Jericho Missionary Baptist Church, on Bloomington Road in Champaign, Illinois. Johnson also served for years as the head football coach at Centennial High School in Champaign. Between 2012 and 2019, Johnson 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. Johnson previously 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.

In sentencing Johnson to 10 months of imprisonment and ordering full restitution to both HUD and the U.S. Department of Education, United States District Judge Michael M. Mihm found that, although Johnson suffered from a gambling addiction, his crimes were the result of his voluntary choices and hurt many people, including the disadvantaged children in the Garden Hills neighborhood who did not benefit as intended from the federal grant.

Judge Mihm ordered Johnson to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence on June 6, 2023. After pleading guilty to these offenses, Johnson left Champaign and relocated to the Dallas, Texas, area.

“Abuse of the bankruptcy system by making false statements, utilizing federal program monies for gambling purposes, and concealing those acts strikes at the very core of the integrity of the bankruptcy system and undermines public confidence in that system,” stated Nancy J. Gargula, United States Trustee for Indiana, Central and Southern Illinois (Region 10).  “Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that these actions will not be tolerated. I am grateful to U.S. Attorney Harris and our law enforcement partners for their strong commitment to combating fraud and abuse in bankruptcy cases.”

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 in collaboration with the Central District of Illinois Bankruptcy Fraud Working Group coordinated by the United States Trustee for Central and Southern Illinois and Indiana (Region 10). The bankruptcy fraud charge was referred for criminal prosecution by the United States Trustee for Region 10. 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 Peoria, Illinois, and South Bend, Indiana. Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene L. Miller represented the government in the prosecution.

Updated April 11, 2023

Financial Fraud