Detroit, MI — A judge has sentenced Michael Winans Jr. to nearly 14 years in prison Wednesday for a financial scam that robbed victims of a total of $8 million.
In 2007 and 2008, Winans attracted more than 1,000 investors for a scheme to sell Saudi Arabian oil bonds, promising them a 100 percent return in two months. Instead, he used the money for personal expenses and paid off earlier investors. $4.7 million is still owed to about 600 people.
Two victims told a judge that Winans’ scheme to sell Saudi Arabian oil bonds caused divorces and took away people’s life savings. They and others have urged the judge to hand down a long prison sentence, and prosecutors have asked the judge for a sentence of 12.5 to 15.5 years.
A letter from one of the recruiters who brought hundreds of investors into the scheme read:
“My team and I alone had more than 350 people totaling $2 million. As a result, many people, such as myself, has to file bankruptcy. Marriages split apart. Families were divided. Friendships ended. People became physically ill due to stress and lack of finances.”
Another letter read:
“This silver-tongued con man used his family name to give us a false sense of trust, that he was an upstanding person. Even went so far as to stand up in front of a church and say, ‘Would I be using this forum if I wasn’t being truthful with you?’”
According to The Washington Post, Winans said he had “no malicious intent” and acknowledged that he kept collecting the money even after learning the oil bonds were fake.
“I want to apologize to everyone,” Winans said. “These were decisions that were negligent and irresponsible,” Winans said.
The 30-year-old is a third-generation member of one of the “first families” of gospel music. He is the son of Michael Winans Sr., a member of the brotherly quartet, The Winans. He is also the grandson to Delores “Mom” Winans and David “Pop” Winans Sr. His uncle, Marvin Winans Sr., gave the eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral. He is also the nephew to BeBe and CeCe Winans. Michael Winans Jr. has also performed with his cousins Marvin Jr., Carvin Jr. and Juan as part of Winans Phase II.