Wolchek: How family and friends were betrayed by Michael Winans Jr.

He used to hang out with big time celebrities, but soon Michael Winans, Junior will likely be hanging around with federal inmates.  This week, the pop and gospel singer will be sentenced for running a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme.

Play the video above to see Rob Wolchek's full report, including first-person accounts of people who say they were scammed by Winans Junior.


You would never fall for a Ponzi scheme.  People that do that are stupid and greedy.  Well, you're wrong.  I think after you read this story, you'll understand how Winans tricked people into his scams and how this crime not only cost people their investment but really ruins lives.

How do you steal $8 million?  Get people to trust you.  Get people to think you're an important guy.  Get people to think they would be crazy not to believe you.

If you're already famous, like Michael Winans, Junior from the most respected family in gospel music, you too can steal $8 million like Winans did.

I first exposed Winans back in 2008.  People told me Winans had talked them into investing in a Saudi oil bond.  Winans said he was already wealthy and wanted to teach average people how to invest like rich people do.

However, I found out there was no Saudi oil bond.  Winans had taken money from more than 1,000 people to invest in something that didn't exist.  It was a complete sham made up by Michael Winans.

It was a big story and made national news since this guy was a member of the Winans gospel music family, a recording star and a friend of big time celebrities.  But he didn't have any of his family or friends waiting for him after he plead guilty to wire fraud a few months ago, just me.

"Got anything to say to your victims?" I asked him.

"No comment," he answered.

While much of the press seems to have forgotten about this fallen music star, I'm going to introduce you to some of his victims just so you don't forget how rotten he really is.

In 2008 after working at Winans' studio for about a year, Winans pulled Mark aside one day and told him he was going to do him a big favor.  If Mark gave Winans $1,000, he would double it in a month.

Now remember, Mark is just a struggling music guy.  Winans is a star and the owner of the studio.  Mark is impressed with this guy, so he hands him $1,000 and, sure enough, a month later Winans turned that $1,000 into $2,000.

Mark really wasn't into the investing thing, but others were, and when people started approaching Mark asking him if Winan's investment deal was real, he said yes.  He made $1,000 lickity split.

"He used you to sell his bogus scam?" I asked.

"Yeah, he used me and then in the process I lose relationships with family members, friends," Mark said.  "People that I don't know I told about it like threatening me."

What Mark didn't know was that others who invested didn't make any money.  They lost their money because the Saudi oil bond Winans said he was investing their money in was fake.  He was keeping the money.

"It's like still hard for me to grasp that he did that and that it was actually him," he said.

People who lost money blamed Mark for simply telling the truth, but that is the way a Ponzi works.

"It ruined my life for a couple of years.  It was a pretty, pretty rough time," he said.

Still think Ponzi schemes are just about people losing money?  Meet Maurice.

"It was horrible.  It was devastating.  I think it was the worst time in my life," he said.

Maurice didn't invest with Winans.  Maurice rented a house from him, the only house Winans had in his own name.

"It's always somebody pulling up, and they're knocking on the door," Maurice explained.  "They're asking me questions, and what is going on?"

Poor Maurice had no idea when he put down $7,000 as a deposit on the house and signed a lease it belonged to a guy who was cheating people out of their money.

"The police came," said his wife, Shari.  "They thought that my husband could have been in cahoots with him."

Winans would come by and collect his rent, but wouldn't answer any questions about all the angry visitors looking for blood.  After months of this, the couple had yet another visitor.

"It was a Saturday morning.  Somebody knocked on the door, and that was the thing from the bank saying that the house was in foreclosure," Shari said.

After paying $20,000 in rent over eight months to Winans, they got thrown out of the house.

"He rented it while it was already in foreclosure," Shari said.

"We had to move to an apartment with furniture that we had to stick in a garage because we had nowhere to put it," said Maurice.

Then there is Ryan, a guy Winans befriended.  He didn't have the $10,000 Winans said he needed as a sure fire investment, so Winans suggested getting his folks involved.

"I brought it to my family, my sister, my parents," Ryan said.

They lost the $10,000. Ryan said he still feels guilty for dragging his family into it.

So if you look at Michael Winans, Junior as just a greedy guy who ran a Ponzi scheme, remember this.  He is also a greedy guy who used innocent people to deceive others.  He used people wanting to make a little money to destroy relationships with their own families.  He used people to put their lives in danger so he didn't have to face the angry people he ripped off.

Winans belongs in prison, and I'll bet Puff Daddy won't be calling him there.

I watched Winans in court admit to the judge that he looked people in the eye and took their life savings knowing they would never get it back.  He admitted he made up the whole thing so he could steal people's money.  There is something wrong with Mike Winans, and he will have a lot of time to figure just what.  According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, his recommended sentence is twelve and a half years.

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