Bishop Herman Jackson — who faces federal fraud charges in Chicago — often portrays himself as a modest minister from a modest church.
For years, his church has been struggling financially.
It couldn’t even afford at times to pay him.
But Jackson, who routinely went to Atlanta to be with his family, appeared to have a change in fortune when he went there.
Down south, the servant of God had a home with enough room for servants.
Jackson lived in a mansion boasting seven bedrooms, five fireplaces and a three-car garage in one of Atlanta’s most desirable areas, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
All for $6,000 a month in rent.
That’s the price Jackson agreed to pay in April 2011 to rent a stunning Mediterranean-style limestone house, court records show. It’s now up for sale for $2.85 million.
Jackson didn’t live there long. The fiery preacher — who has since made headlines for saying the “wrath of God” would visit the home of a federal judge here hearing his case — was accused by its owner of skipping rent, running a limo service out of the home and renting it out for parties, records show.
In March 2012, police discovered “several hundred vehicles” parked all over the lawn of the 1.79-acre lot, and 250 people inside the home, after neighbors complained about a bash there, according to police reports. It was billed on Twitter as a free “mansion party” and resulted in minor charges for Jackson’s wife and the person who threw the party, records show.
Jackson was evicted days later.
The bad news didn’t end there for Jackson. Seven months after the eviction order in Atlanta, a federal grand jury in Chicago indicted Jackson and his wife in an unrelated scheme.
Prosecutors said the couple plotted to bilk Illinois out of untold amounts of child care subsidies through day cares at Jackson’s Cicero church, the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple, where he is known as the bishop.
The feds said the fraud ended in August 2011 — four months after Jackson signed the lease in Atlanta.
Jackson and his wife, Jannette Faria, have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is set for August, and Jackson has apologized for the “wrath of God” comment. He said he didn’t mean it as a threat to the judge.
Matt McQuaid, Jackson’s attorney, said his client had roommates down south to help him split the $6,000 monthly rent four ways, and he said Jackson got the boot only after one of them failed to come up with the cash.
“He wasn’t paying six grand a month,” McQuaid said.
But it’s not clear what deal Jackson had with those roommates. Jackson was the only tenant listed on the lease, which authorized only Jackson and his family to live there.
One mansion tenant told the Chicago Sun-Times he paid rent to Jackson and his wife, believing they owned the home.
“They told me they bought the mansion,” said Bayate Abraham, who was listed in a March 2012 police report living in the home.
Jackson declined to comment.
The Atlanta mansion features an extra dining room and rooms for exercise, recreation and theater, according to online listings. There is a private entry gate watched by security cameras.
Attorney Onyema Farrey represented the homeowner, Elham Makram, during Jackson’s eviction. Farrey described Jackson as a “smooth talking” tenant who “always paid late.” Sometimes checks were lost in the mail, Farrey said, and sometimes they bounced.
“It was just one thing after another,” Farrey said.
A Fulton County judge eventually ordered Jackson to pay $10,100 in unpaid rent and at least $2,968 in other fees. Farrey said her client never saw the money.
Jackson’s church filed for bankruptcy in 2009, records show. After his arrest in October 2012, Jackson told U.S. Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman the church was still struggling. He said it couldn’t afford to give him a paycheck.
He said it simply paid for $30 stand-by flights so he could travel routinely between Chicago and Georgia, where he had been living with his family.
But prosecutors said the church bought Jackson a Mercedes. And they said he bought a second one in his own name in April 2011 — two weeks after he signed the lease in Atlanta.
The judge didn’t let Jackson move down south again until last fall. For months after his indictment, he was living in the Cicero parsonage where prosecutors said he pulled off his fraud.
Prosecutors didn’t want him living there, but the judge went along with the idea after a court agent told her the red-brick church could be a “feasible residence” for the high-rolling preacher.
It had a bed, he told her. And a place to make meals. And a shower.