Save The Seed Minister "Dr. Shine" Sentenced to Over 2 Years in Prison in Scheme to Obstruct Bankruptcy Proceedings
Minister Concealed Use of Funds from Church Members to Acquire a $1.75 Million Residence and 11 Luxury Vehicles Worth Over a Million in the Names of Church Members
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Robert J. Freeman, a/k/a “Dr. Shine,” age 56, of Indian Head, Maryland, today to 27 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for obstructing bankruptcy court proceedings. Judge Titus also entered an order that Freeman pay $631,050.52 in restitution.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Rick A. Raven of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
“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 cars and a mansion while falsely representing in court that he was indigent,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
"Concealing assets and making false statements in bankruptcy court is a crime,” stated Special Agent in Charge Rick A. Raven of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office. “The prosecution of individuals, such as Mr. Freeman, who intentionally conceal assets and commit bankruptcy fraud ranks high on the list of IRS Criminal Investigation's enforcement priorities. Today's sentencing is an example of how serious the courts perceive the violation of U.S. bankruptcy law."
According to his guilty plea, Freeman served as pastor and leader of Save the Seed Ministry, Inc., Save the Seed International Church, and Seed Faith International Church, which he 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.
More specifically, from 2002 to 2006, Freeman caused two Lincoln Town cars, two Mercedes Benz cars, two Volkswagon Phaetons, a Bentley Arnage vehicle and a $1.75 million residence on the Potomac River to be purchased in the names of church members. The Maryland residence, located in Indian Head, comprised about 9,000 square feet, with a deep water pier, a 20,000 pound covered boat lift, a jet ski lift, two four car garages, five fireplaces and a gym with steam room. Freeman also caused a Maybach vehicle to be leased in the name of a church member.
By October 2005, 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.
On October 14, 2005 Freeman filed a bankruptcy petition seeking to adjust or discharge his debts. Freeman lied to the bankruptcy court and obstructed its proceedings by not fully reporting his real or personal property, or property owned by another that Freeman controlled, including the home and luxury vehicles purchased with church funds. Freeman also falsely reported his occupation as a consultant of a maintenance company, and failed to report any income from his ministry. Additionally, at a court proceeding, Freeman falsely stated that his ministry business went out of business and that he was renting a residence in Waldorf from friends; and he provided false pay stubs from a maintenance company that in fact did not employ Freeman. Relying on the false information, on March 8, 2006 the bankruptcy court discharged hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts owed by Freeman.
In the weeks following the discharge of his debts, Freeman caused two Mercedes Benz vehicles and a Lincoln Navigator to be purchased or leased for more than $430,000 in the name of a church member.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the IRS - Criminal Investigation for its investigative work and praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mara Zusman Greenberg and Stuart Berman, who prosecuted the case.