Freemans made hundreds of thousands off real estate, followers' charity

The Whitworthian/February 22, 2005
By Chris Collins

The Freemans bought more than a million dollar's worth of real estate when they settled in to three houses near Whitworth. Many students and administrators have wondered where they got all the money to make those purchases and why they were willing to pay nearly half a million dollars for one mid-sized house in north Spokane.

Bill Freeman has his own company called Ministry of the Word and sells the dozen books he has authored over the years. But his highest-selling book, a devotional, has only reached about 5,000 sales, Freeman told The Whitworthian more than two weeks ago. Success in past real estate sales, ironically, has been the main source of the Freemans' wealth.

Real estate profits

Through buying, then remodeling and sprucing up houses with the help of their followers' free labor, Bill and Patsy Freeman have made a profit over the years, said many ex-members from the Freeman group.

The former members said that, for example, the Freemans made hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit off a couple homes they owned in Seattle. They bought the houses for a low price and renovated the buildings before selling them years later for a handsome profit, ex-members said.

One of Bill Freeman's former close friends said he didn't see anything wrong with that, though many ex-members said they felt they and their fellow members were taken advantage of to build up the Freemans' houses - and their bank accounts - for little in return.

The profit the Freemans made from re-selling houses has allowed them to live nicely, former members said.

One former member who was part of the church in Scottsdale, Ariz., said Patsy Freeman wore "very expensive clothes" and that Bill Freeman had a closet "full of very expensive suits."

"They lived like they had a $500,000 a year salary," he said. "As a servant of the church, I wondered if it was appropriate."

Court papers filed on behalf of Patsy Freeman in early 1999, when she was pursuing a divorce from Bill Freeman, say that the Freemans owned a house "valued at approximately $600,000." Thanks to $67,000 in donations from two members of the Freeman group, the couple also bought a "fairly substantial residence" sometime near the filing of those court papers.

Decent income

In addition to the money made off of real estate sales, the Freemans received a decent salary from the Church in Scottsdale, according to court records.

Divorce papers that required the Freemans to disclose some financial information show that the couple earned $69,610 in 1995, $73,775 in 1996, and $83,336 in 1997. When the Freeman couple parted ways in 1998, Bill Freeman reported $69,975 in income.

In the court documents, Bill Freeman reported that his pay dates varied, marking both the "weekly" and "every-other weekly" options. Copies of checks from the Church in Scottsdale made out to Freeman also varied, ranging from $1,300 to $1,600.

One former member said no one held Bill Freeman accountable when it came to setting his own pay: "Who set Bill Freeman's salary?" He asked. "It wasn't the congregation. It wasn't the board of elders. It must have been Bill himself."

Bill Freeman's former longtime friend said that in addition to Bill Freeman's "fairly decent income" from the church, Patsy Freeman's loyalists would give her large portions of their income "because they loved her." Other former members confirmed this, though many said Freeman's loyalist gave her money because they were pressured into it and not because they loved her.

Some of the former members said Bill Freeman neglected his flock despite his healthy income.

Luis Cuevas, a former member who joined the group in early 1995 and left in late 1996, wrote a four-page letter to Bill Freeman in August 1998 accusing him of ignoring the needs of a man who had sold his house and moved him and his family from Switzerland in early 1997 to help the Freemans' church. Cuevas said Charles Jann, the Swiss, was so underpaid that at times he did not have food to feed his family.

"Why do you always do that?" Cuevas asked in his letter, which was not provided to The Whitworthian by a former member, but not Cuevas himself. "Can anyone who has needs in the church ever come to you for help or solutions and you not turn it into a negative matter as you have done with me and so many others that I have conversed with?"

The letter continued: "You turn a situation of food on the table into a matter of authority. Why not just be a loving and caring shepherd?"

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