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Fire at 'Dr. Shine's' $1.75 Million Mansion May Have Been Arson: Fire Marshal

The vacant mansion in Potomac Heights was the former home of Save the Seed ministry pastor Robert J. Freeman, also known as Dr. Shine.

Fire at a mansion overlooking the Potomac may have been arson. Credit: File|Patch
Fire at a mansion overlooking the Potomac may have been arson. Credit: File|Patch
Investigation of a fire on a large waterfront mansion owned by a disgraced minister jailed for using church money to support his living expenses is ongoing after fire investigators determined the fire was arson.

The Washington Post reports that evidence has been found that the fire may have actually been arson, according to Oliver J. Alkire, a senior deputy fire marshal in Maryland.

Nearly 75 firefighters from various departments including Charles, Prince George, and Fairfax Counties along with the Naval District Washington DC were called to the site of the fire -- a 15,5000 square foot mansion at 5200 Rivers Edge Place -- on Sunday. The fire was subdued within three hours

Officials determined the start of the fire to be inside a three-car garage. A team of deputy state fire marshals continued the investigation on Monday.

The now vacant mansion was once the home of Robert J. Freeman, the ex-pastor of Save the Seed ministry in Waldorf, according to The Washington Post. Freeman, who had built up a ministry over 20 years, got into trouble when he used church finances to fund his lavish lifestyle -- buying 11 luxury cars and living in the mansion valued at $1.75 million at the time of his sentencing.

Freeman -- who earned the nickname Dr. Shine -- had encouraged members of the church to take out loans and also make sacrifices to give gifts to the church in return for economic benefits through what he termed the “Prosperity Doctrine,” according to The Washington Post.

Freeman in July 2012 was sentenced  to 27 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for obstructing bankruptcy court proceedings, according to BayNet.com. A judge also ordered Freeman to pay $631,000 in restitution.

“The evidence shows that Robert J. Freeman lived a life of fraud and deception, using millions of dollars from church members and fraudulently obtained credit to pay for luxury cars and a mansion while falsely representing in court that he was indigent,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein at the time, according to the BayNet website.

According to his guilty plea, Freeman concealed those assets from the bankruptcy court when he sought a discharge of his debts from the court in 2005.

One firefighter was taken to Civista Hospital in La Plata. He was treated for heat exhaustion and released Sunday.

Anyone with information concerning the fire is asked to contact the Office of the State Fire Marshal - Southern Regional Office at 443-550-6820 or the Arson Hotline at 1-800-492-7529.

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