Robert J. Freeman, a charismatic Southern Maryland pastor and longtime televangelist, drove fancy cars and lived in a $1.75 million home on the Potomac River that has five fireplaces, a jet-ski lift and two four-car garages.Okay, break Dr. Shine off in the comments section.
To finance that lifestyle, federal prosecutors said, Freeman turned to his followers to purchase the vehicles and waterfront property. Many, it turned out, could not afford it.
On Monday, Freeman, 56, who headed Save the Seed ministry in Waldorf, was sentenced to more than two years in prison in a related bankruptcy case. Prosecutors said he hid church assets to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts.
Freeman, who was known as “Dr. Shine,” said in court that he takes responsibility for lying during bankruptcy proceedings. But he said his congregation willingly funded purchases on behalf 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.”
A self-described former drug addict, Freeman, who lives in Indian Head in Charles County, built his brand and ministry over the past two decades through TV broadcasts and an unorthodox approach to drug treatment that began in Prince George’s County.
Freeman directed church members to take out loans to purchase the cars, including a Bentley and a Maybach, and the mansion. 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.
Even after Freeman and his former wife, Claudette “Dee Dee” Freeman, filed for bankruptcy, federal prosecutors say he convinced a church member to lease or buy three more Mercedes Benzes and a Lincoln Navigator.
In court papers, Freeman blamed predatory lending practices, the economic downturn and his sixth-grade education for his financial undoing. The mansion, he said, was the pastor’s residence but also was a retreat and conference center. The cars, he said, were used by church leaders.
In 2005, the Freemans filed for bankruptcy, stating that they had no assets. Freeman said then that the couple “lost our ministry.” He also presented fake pay stubs from a maintenance company.
His sermons were picked up by the Word Network, a Christian television station.
Question: What sayeth ye'?!?