“The Detroit Free Press” reported on Feb. 27 that gospel singer, Michael Winans, Jr., was sentenced to 13 years for running an $8 million Ponzi scheme. He will turn himself in at a later date to begin serving his sentence.
Additionally, he was also ordered to pay $4.8 million in restitution to about 1,200 investors.
Winans pleaded guilty to wire fraud last October in U.S. federal court to the Ponzi scheme.
Winans, 32, is a member of the renowned gospel music family. He has a wife and is the father of a one-year-old child.
The gospel singer was named as the operator of the Winans Foundation Trust, which represented itself as a business entity that invested in crude oil bonds in Saudi Arabia.
Winans reportedly enlisted the help of 11 people to invest in the crude oil bonds and ordered them to solicit outside investments. He guaranteed his contributors monetary returns from $1,000 to $8,000 within a 60-day period. Instead of paying his investors, Winans kept the money for himself.
“The Detroit Free Press” stated that Judge Cox in U.S. District Court said before sentencing Winans:
“You took advantage of good, decent, church-going people. That is very, very troubling to me…You used…churches to perpetuate this fraud.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Abed Hammoud said of Winans:
“He used religion. He used the church, the good reputation of the family.”
Prosecutors said in court filings that “he clearly abused the fact that he came from a very well known family with a good reputation in order to induce people to invest with him.”
Winans acknowledged in court his wrongdoing by saying:
- “I did make mistakes.”
- “I caused financial and emotional damage. For that I repent.”
- He claimed there was no “malicious intent on my part…I wanted people to have a good life.”
Negative reactions to Winans’ Ponzi scheme:
- Homes were lost.
- College tuition money was used.
- Many marriages and relationships were destroyed.
A representative for the Winans family advised the public not to let the Ponzi scheme of one of its members tarnish the good name of the Winans.