Alleged preacher sentenced to 9 years in prison for fraud

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – July 25, 2019 – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announces that a self-proclaimed minister and Apostle, Wendell Freeman, 61, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to prison for taking a Lexington County woman’s life savings. Freeman met the victim shortly after she retired from working for local banks for over 39 years. Freeman told the victim he was involved in a lawsuit against the State of South Carolina and that the lawsuit had already been won, but that money was needed to pay administrative fees required before the money could be paid out. Freeman promised the woman that if she would loan him $20,000 for five days she would get her money back and a guaranteed return.  The lawsuit Freeman told the victim about did not exist, but instead of telling her that, when the victim requested her money, Freeman did what is called a “reload” scheme. Freeman’s reload scheme involved telling the victim there had been a problem with getting the money and if she would just give him more money, the new investment would also be guaranteed.

At the sentencing, the State pointed out one of the first things Freeman told the victim was that he was a pastor. The State then argued that Freeman’s portraying himself as a man of God to gain the victim’s trust made the crime an “affinity fraud,” which made it particularly bad.

The Honorable Frank Addy heard from the parties and the victim and then sentenced Freeman to nine years in prison for lying to the victim to obtain her money and 10 years for committing securities fraud as he carried out his scheme. The judge ordered him to serve nine years in prison. The additional 10 years will be suspended to five years of probation, during which he must pay restitution to the victim. Freeman, who was present in the courtroom, was taken into custody without incident.

Attorney General Wilson, who also serves as South Carolina’s Securities Commissioner, emphasized the importance of prosecutions such as this one. “Investment fraud can be every bit as devastating as losses from other types of crimes. For seniors, the outcome is especially devastating due to the fact that they have less time to make up for their losses,” Wilson said. He also emphasizes that people who offer securities in South Carolina usually need to be registered, and encouraged the public to call his office before investing to check if the seller and the security that they are offering are properly registered and, if so, check if there are any pending complaints or disciplinary actions against the seller.

The case was investigated by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Special Agent Robert Cathey and prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Tracy Meyers.

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