Maryland pastor gets 27 months in prison for fraud

A Maryland pastor and longtime televangelist, Robert J. Freeman, a.k.a Dr. Shine, is going to jail for 27 months and was ordered to pay $630,000 to four church members. The Washington Post reports that the ‘Gods Top Gun of deliverance’ pastor lied to bankruptcy courts and hid the church’s assets in order to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts.

Freeman, 56, also convinced church members to take out loans for his multiple cars and $1.75 million waterfront home with five fireplaces, a jet-ski lift and two four-car garages. When the church could not cover the bills, church members were on the hook for the debt, and in some cases lost their homes and jobs.

Freeman served as pastor and leader of Save the Seed Ministry, Inc., Save the Seed International Church, and Seed Faith International Church, with his then-wife, Dee Dee. These entities were incorporated in 1991, 2001 and 2003, respectively.  Shortly after February 2001, Freeman used funds from church members to accumulate substantial assets, including 11 luxury cars valued at over $1,073,000 and a $1.75 million residence in Indian Head, Maryland, which he concealed from the bankruptcy court when he sought a discharge of his debts from the court in 2005.

According to his guilty plea, Freeman said that he was a consultant for a maintenance company, and did not report any income from his ministry. Freeman and his then-spouse owed over $1.3 million in debts, including $846,000 in back rent; more than $87,000 in lease payments on a jet airplane; over $160,000 for payments on musical instruments; and $220,000 in loan payments on a bus. March 8, 2006 the bankruptcy court discharged hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts owed by Freeman.

Not long after he got away with lying to the court, Freeman bought  two Mercedes Benz vehicles and a Lincoln Navigator that were purchased or leased for more than $430,000 in the name of a church member.

“Freeman lived a life of fraud and deception, using millions of dollars from church members, and fraudulently obtained credit to pay for luxury cars and a mansion while falsely representing in court that he was indigent,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

Freeman argued that in regards to the money from the church members, he was purchasing the luxury items for the benefit of the church. “I did all this publicly,” Freeman told the judge in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. “There wasn’t nothing shady about it.” The judges disagreed. “The essence of this crime was taking advantage of unwitting people,” District Judge Roger W. Titus said before sentencing Freeman to 27 months in prison — six months more than prosecutors sought.

Freeman’s case was brought to light by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), created in November 2009. The task force coordinates efforts to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.

Follow Similoluwa Ojurongbe on GooglePlus