Michael Winans Jr., a member of a well known gospel music family and a onetime Grammy nominee, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years and 9 months in prison for defrauding more than 1,200 investors in an $8 million dollar pyramid scheme. He was also ordered to pay his victims $4.8 million in restitution.
Winans took advantage of “good, decent, church-going people,” said Judge 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 that “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 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 Whitney Houston’s funeral, was in the courtroom today. He did not comment.
At the sentencing, there were also several victims of the pyramid scheme, some of whom cried. In many cases, people fooled by Winans convinced loved…