Alleged preacher sentenced to 9 years in prison for defrauding Lexington County woman
Columbia, SC - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced Thursday 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 her he was involved in a lawsuit against the State of South Carolina and that the lawsuit had already been won. He also claimed he needed money to pay administrative fees required before he 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. He didn't tell her that, and 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. 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 the case and then sentenced Freeman to nine years in prison for lying to the victim to obtain her money. He also gave him 10 years for committing securities fraud. The judge ordered him to serve the 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.