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Self-proclaimed minister sentenced for fraud

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A Columbia man who claimed to be a minister was sentenced to nine years in prison for taking the life savings of a retired Lexington woman.

The S.C. attorney general’s office said Wendell Freeman, 61, was convicted of fraud. Attorney General Alan Wilson said Freeman convinced the victim he had won money in a lawsuit against the state of South Carolina, but he needed money to pay administrative fees before he would receive the total amount of his alleged award.  Freeman told the victim if she loaned him $20,000, he would pay her back within five days.

The lawsuit involving the state did not exist, Wilson said.

At Freeman’s sentencing, prosecutors pointed out that one of the first things he told the victim was that he was a pastor. Prosecutors used that argument that Freeman gained the victim’s trust because she thought he was a man of God, making the crime an “affinity fraud.”

Freeman was sentenced to nine years in prison for lying to the victim to obtain her money and 10 years for securities fraud. The judge ordered Freeman to serve nine years with the additional 10 years suspended followed by five years of probation. Freeman also was ordered to pay restitution to the victim.

Wilson, who also serves as the state securities commissioner, reminded citizens that people who offer securities in South Carolina usually need to be registered. Citizens can call his office before investing to check if the seller and the security are properly registered. Wilson’s office also can provide information on pending complaints or disciplinary actions against the seller.

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