Winans Family Member Sentenced to 14 Years For $8M Pyramid Scheme


Mike WinansA member of a well-known gospel music family was sentenced today to nearly 14 years in prison for financially defrauding more than 1,200 investors in an $8 million pyramid scheme.

During the sentencing hearing in Detroit, a federal prosecutor and the judge both blasted Michael Winans Jr., 30, of Maryland, for using his Christian faith and family’s reputation in a financial scam that ruined the lives of numerous churchgoers.

After emotional testimony from two of Winans’ victims, Judge Sean Cox sentenced the one-time Grammy nominee to 13 years and 9 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay his victims $4.8 million in restitution.

Winans took advantage of “good, decent, church-going people,” said Cox in U.S. District Court before sentencing him. “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,” to rob victims.

Winans pled guilty in October to wire fraud. 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.”

Dressed in a gray suit, Winans addressed the court today, acknowledging “I did make mistakes.”

I caused “financial and emotional damage. For that I repent,” Winans told the judge.

But, he claimed, there was no “malicious intent on my part … I wanted people to have a good life.”

Winans led “investors … to believe they were investing in Saudi Arabian crude oil bonds that (he) well knew did not exist,” said the sentencing memo of Hammoud. “Winans … guaranteed the victim investors that the bonds would yield returns of approximately 100 percent of the principal within 60 days.”

Winans is the grandson of David (Pop) Winans Sr. and the nephew of Marvin Winans, the pastor of Perfecting Church in Detroit ,who is known nationally for his gospel music. Marvin Winans, who gave the eulogy last year at singer Whitney Houston’s funeral, was in the courtroom today. He did not comment.

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