Save the Seed Minister Pleads Guilty in Scheme To Obstruct Bankruptcy Proceedings
Minister Concealed Use of Funds from Church Members to Acquire a $1.75 Million Residence and 12 Luxury Vehicles Worth Over a Million in the Names of Church Members
Greenbelt, Maryland - Robert J. Freeman, a/k/a Dr. Shine, age 55, of Indian Head, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to obstructing bankruptcy court proceedings.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett 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 homes, cars, boats and even a jet airplane while falsely representing in court that he was indigent,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
"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. "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."
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 12 luxury cars valued at over $1,073,000 and a $1.75 million residence in Indian Head, Maryland, that he concealed from the bankruptcy court when he sought a discharge of his debts from the court in 2005.
More specifically, in 2002, Freeman caused two Lincoln Town cars to be purchased in the names of two church members for more than $55,000. In 2003, Freeman caused a Mercedes Benz car to be purchased in the name of a third church member for almost $40,000. In 2004, Freeman allegedly caused a $1.75 million residence on the Potomac River to be purchased in the name of another church member. The Maryland residence, located at 5200 Rivers Edge Place 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 and others, not the church member, lived in the residence.
In August and October 2004, Freeman caused two Volkswagon Phaetons to be purchased in the name of two church members for more than $140,000. In June 2005, Freeman caused a Bentley Arnage vehicle and a Maybach vehicle to be purchased and leased, respectively, in the name of a church member for more than $340,000. In February 2006, Freeman allegedly caused another Mercedes Benz car to be purchased in the name of a church member for more than $68,000.
By October 2005, Freeman and his then-spouse owed debts totaling more than $1.3 million, including $846,000 in back rent; more than $87,000 in lease payments on a jet airplane; more than $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 was required to disclose to the bankruptcy court all real or personal property, including property held by another that Freeman controlled.
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 three Mercedes Benz vehicles and a Lincoln Navigator to be purchased or leased for more than $430,000 in the name of a church member.
Freeman faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District t Judge Roger W. Titus scheduled sentencing for November 28, 2011, at 10:30 a.m.
This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the IRS - Criminal Investigation for its investigative work and praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Mara Zusman Greenberg, who is prosecuting the case.