Minister Allegedly Concealed Use of Church Funds to Acquire a Residence and Luxury Vehicles Worth Millions in the Names of Church Members
GREENBELT, Md. (December 1, 2010)Robert J. Freeman, a/k/a Dr. Shine, age 54, and Jeffrey Mont, a/k/a J.J. Mont, age 32, both of Indian Head, Maryland, were indicted on charges of obstructing court proceedings; and Freeman was also indicted for making false statements and falsifying records in bankruptcy proceedings. The indictment was returned on November 10, 2010 and unsealed on November 24, 2010 when Freeman appeared in court in Greenbelt for his initial appearance.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
"The role of the IRS-Criminal Investigation becomes even more important in financial cases due to the complex transactions that can take time to unravel, stated Rebecca Sparkman, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Washington DC Field Office.?The indictment should serve as a warning to anyone who is contemplating committing such financial schemes that illegal activity will not go unnoticed.
According to the five count superseding indictment, Freeman purported to be a minister 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. From 2001 to 2006, Freeman allegedly used church funds to accumulate substantial assets that he concealed from the bankruptcy court when he sought a discharge of his debts from the court in 2005.
For example, in 2002, Freeman allegedly caused two Lincoln Town cars to be purchased in the names of two church members for more than $55,000. In 2003, Freeman allegedly caused a Mercedes Benz car to be purchased in the name of a third church member for almost $40,000. In July 2004, Freeman allegedly caused a $1.75 million residence on the Potomac River to be purchased in the name of a fourth 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. The church member, however, eventually decided not to proceed with the purchase and Freeman allegedly caused a fifth church member to consummate the sale in December 2004. Freeman and others, not the church member, lived in the residence.
In August and October 2004, Freeman allegedly caused two Volkswagon Phaetons to be purchased in the name of two of the 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.
The indictment alleges that 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.
The indictment alleges that 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 is alleged to have 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 is alleged to have falsely stated that his ministry business went out of business; 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.
Beginning in June 2008, Jeffrey Mont was a full-time volunteer with Seed Faith International Church. On November 24, 2009, a federal grand jury subpoena was issued to Seed Faith International Church that required the church to produce corporate records for 2000 through 2008. On December 9, 2009, the subpoena was served on Mont as treasurer of Seed Faith. The indictment alleges that Freeman and Mont sought to obstruct the grand jurys proceedings by causing back-dated false and fictitious corporate records to be created that Mont produced to the federal grand jury in response to the subpoena.
Freeman faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of two counts of obstruction of official proceedings; five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for filing false records in a bankruptcy proceeding; and five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of two counts for making false statements in a bankruptcy proceedings. Mont faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for obstruction of official proceedings.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obamas 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 their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael R. Pauz and Mara Zusman Greenberg, who are prosecuting the case.
Source: Office of United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein