DETROIT— Prosecutors have recommended at least 12 1/2 years in prison for a member of gospel music's Winans family whose $8 million bond scam involved more than 1,000 people and caused bankruptcies and home foreclosures.
Michael Winans Jr., 30, of Jessup, Md., is returning Wednesday to Detroit federal court, four months after pleading guilty to fraud.
Prosecutors say Winans sold fake Saudi Arabian oil bonds to more than 1,000 investors in 2007 and 2008. He promised 100 percent returns in two months, then used the money for his personal expenses or to pay off earlier investors. About 600 people are still owed $5 million.
Winans is a third-generation member of one of gospel music's first families. He's the grandson of Delores "Mom" Winans and David "Pop" Winans Sr., and the son of Michael Winans Sr., a member of The Winans, a quartet of brothers. His uncle, Marvin Winans, gave the eulogy at Whitney Houston's funeral.
The sentencing memo from Assistant U.S. Attorney Abed Hammoud includes comments from people who gave Winans money or collected it for him. They referred to him as a "silver-tongue con man," who solicited money from church pulpits and used his last name to enhance his credibility.
Winans "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," Hammoud said. "He also used religion to convince people to trust and invest with him. This translated into over $8 million obtained by fraud from so-called investors, which financially ruined many of them."
Hammoud asked for a sentence within the guidelines, which range from 12 1/2 years to 15 1/2 years in prison.
Defense attorney William Hatchett said Winans knows he's going to prison for a "substantial" period.
Winans "accepts full responsibility for the heartache, pain and economic disaster that his conduct caused to countless innocent and trusting individuals," Hatchett said in a court filing.