Michael Winans Jr., member of the famous Winans gospel family, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years and 9 months in a federal prison for leading a Ponzi scheme from the church pulpit.
Detroit Judge Sean Cox denounced Winans for deceiving "good, decent, church-going people," before he announced the sentence. The maxium penalty was 15 and a half years in prison according to the sentencing guidelines.
Winans plead guilty to wire fraud in October 2012 after federal investigators discovered the former music producer used his family name and access to Michigan churches to collect investments, ranging from $1,000 to $7,000. Victims who testified in the hearing Wednesday said that Winans told them they were investing in Saudi Arabian crude oil bonds and promised them high returns.
The Huffington Post reported the victim Tara Hunt told the judge, "There are lots of marriages that have been destroyed. I know family members who aren't speaking to each other" as a result of Winans' scheme.
It is believed that Winan took as much as $8 million from 1,000 people. According to the Huffington Post, Winans used some of the payments to repay his earlier investors. However he still owes $4.7 million to approximately 600 people.
Winans is the nephew of gospel brother and sister duo Bebe and Cece Winans and the grandson of the Winans family's Gospel patriarchs David Delores and David Winans.