Maryland pastor and televangelist Robert J. Freeman, 56, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for obstructing bankruptcy court proceedings. The pastor, also known as "Dr. Shine," was known for living a luxurious lifestyle that included owning expensive vehicles and a mansion valued over $1 million. Funds were used from his church along with fraudulently obtaining credit to make his purchases. His sentencing comes after he hid assets during his 2005 bankruptcy filing.
Freeman founded the "Save the Seed Ministry" along with 2 other international ministries. His sermons were picked up by the Christian television station The Word Network. It was reported that he was using funds collected by the ministry to make his lavishing purchases. In 2005 he sought bankruptcy protection but it was discovered that he hid assets at the time of his filing. He also claimed to have no assets while saying the ministry was no longer in existence. Prosecutors claim Freeman failed to report church assets; avoiding creditors and debts totaling thousands.
Freeman claims to take responsibility for his actions, but states his church followers were open to providing funding for purchases that benefit the church. Also, Freeman feels there was nothing shady about his situation. In an interesting and yet deceptive part of the case includes what prosecutors claim Freeman did in order to maintain his lifestyle. Prosecutors learned that Freeman encouraged church members to buy or lease expensive vehicles such as a Lincoln Navigator and a Mercedes Benzes. Some members lost their homes and jobs because of Freeman's actions. He directed members to take out loans for the mansion and basically be responsible for church debt. Freeman was also ordered to pay more than a half a million to church members that took out loans on his behalf.