The Winans family, who comprise one of the biggest names in the gospel music world, is taking a hit this week after Michael Winans Jr. was sentenced to 14 years in prison for a huge financial scam.
The scam, which was reportedly promoted at church, included numerous victims and involved selling Saudi Arabian oil bonds. Some of the victims testified in court, saying the scam had robbed them of their life savings. Winans, while apologetic, did admit that he had taken money from the victims even after he learned the deal was a scam. Described as a Ponzi scheme, the scam involved paying off early investors to attract more; Winans ended up with hundreds of willing participants, many of whom are now broke. It's estimated that more than 600 people are owed about $4.7 million.
"I want to apologize to everyone. ... These were decisions that were negligent and irresponsible," Winans said in court.
Judge Sean Cox relayed the words of some of the victims who weren't in the courtroom, including a young woman who said she'd joined the Army just to be able to go to college because her family can't afford her tuition now.
"Fraud on good, decent church-going people – that was very, very troubling to me," Cox said.