Charles County religious leader Robert J. Freeman, pastor of Save the Seed Ministries, pleaded guilty in a scheme to obstruct bankruptcy proceedings. “The evidence shows that Robert J. Freeman lived a life of fraud and deception, using millions of dollars from church members and fraudulently obtained credit to pay for luxury homes, cars, boats and even a jet airplane while falsely representing in court that he was indigent,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement.

Freeman, also known as “Dr. Shine,” often referred to himself as “God’s Top Gun of Deliverance.” He admittedly struggled with a 16-year drug addiction in his past before he says he was saved and began his ministry in 1988.

Freeman used his ministry’s funds to purchase substantial assets for himself. According to his plea agreement, Freeman admitted to buying two Lincoln Town Cars under the names of two church members in 2002. The next year, he purchased a Mercedes Benz S430 under the name of another church member.

In 2004, after a fourth church member declined his offer, Freeman used a fifth church member’s name to purchase a $1.75 million residence overlooking the Potomac River. The property was 9,000 square feet with a deep water pier, a boat and Jet Ski lift, two four-car garages, five fireplaces and a gym.

Freeman would continue with this behavior for a number of years, purchasing other automobiles in the names of church members.

By October 2005, Freeman and his wife were more than $1.3 million in debt, owing $87,000 in lease payments on a private jet and $220,000 in loan payments on a tour bus.

Freeman and his wife subsequently filed bankruptcy, listing none of the property or vehicles Freeman purchased using the names of church members. According to the plea, on Dec. 2, 2005, Freeman told his creditors at a meeting that he was renting a house in Waldorf, Md., which turned out to be a lie and that his only income was coming from a maintenance company, from which he forged earnings statements.

Freeman further testified that his ministry “went out of business,” which authorities also found to be untrue. In March 2006, Freeman was granted bankruptcy, eliminating his legal obligation to pay debts. However, just weeks later, he purchased four more vehicles under the name of a church member for more than $430,000 in total.

“Bankruptcy fraud can result in serious consequences because it undermines public confidence in the system, taints the reputation of honest citizens seeking protection under the bankruptcy statutes, and has a negative impact on voluntary compliance in our income tax system,” Acting IRS Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett said in a statement. “As the IRS is often a major creditor in bankruptcy proceedings, the detection and prosecution of bankruptcy fraud continues to be a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation.”

Freeman faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for late November.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO