A judge sentenced a member of gospel music’s Winans family to nearly 14 years in prison Wednesday for an $8 million financial scam that was promoted in church pulpits, reports the Associated Press.
Two of Michael Winans Jr.‘s victims spoke in federal court, telling a judge that the scheme to sell Saudi Arabian oil bonds robbed some people of their life savings, caused divorces and fractured many families.
“I want to apologize to everyone… These were decidisions that were negligent and irresponsible,” said Winans, of Jessup, Md.
He said he had no “malicious Intent” but acknowledged that he continued to collect money even after he learned that the bonds were bogus.
Winans, 30, is a third-generation member of one of gospel music’s first families. He’s the grandson ofDelores “Mom” Winans and David “Pop” Winans Sr., and the son of Michael Winans Sr., a member ofThe Winans quartet of brothers.
Winans has performed with his cousin as “Winans Phase II.” He released his own album in 2011, “My Own Genre.”
Winans relied on unwitting friends to round up inverstors, a trait of a classic Ponzi scheme. When the bonds truned out to bogus, inverston angrily turned on the people who recruite them.
“The are lots of marriages that have been destoryed. I know family members who aren’t speaking to each other” Tara Hurt told the judge.
US District Judge Sean Cox read from some of the 50 letters written by victims. He said a young woman joined the Army because her family had lost money that was intended for her college eduction. He note that Winans made his pitch from church pulpits.
“Fraud on good, decent church-going people –that was very, very troubling to me,” Cox said.
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