The reaction to Grammy nominee Michael Winans, Jr.'s 14-year federal prison sentence handed down Wednesday for his role in an $8 million scheme is reverberating all around the Internet today, along with further details about the case.
Winans reportedly promised a 100% return in 60 days on monies invested in the Winans Foundation Trust, a fund that allegedly purchased Saudi Arabian crude oil bonds.
The singer with the popular surname stood in front of the whole church and asked, "Would I be using this forum if I wasn't being truthful?" says one of the victims in this video of court document letters from those pleading for a harsh sentence.
"I've always done business with integrity," Winans, Jr. says in the video, initially blaming a partner in crime for the actions, stating, "he's trying to drag my name and my family's name through the mud. Now that there's like a hysteria going on, people say that I have their money but I don't."
Eventually the 30-year-old Jessup, Maryland resident pleaded guilty to the crime -- and was ordered by U. S. District Judge Sean Cox to repay his fraud victims $4.7 million plus a $175,000 fine.
And it's none to late for people like Cheryl Robinson, who says, "I want every cent of my money."
Meanwhile, the FBI is reaching out to others who may have lost money via the Ponzi scheme.
"A telephone line and e-mail address have been set up by the FBI/United States Attorney’s Office to collect information about potential victims," writes the FBI. "Individuals who believe they may have been a victim of the Winans Foundation Trust should provide their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address to one of the following: email@example.com or toll-free 1-888-702-0553."
Victims experienced frustration and spoke of death threats, divorces and families torn apart in the wake of the discovery that their emptied 401(k) accounts, college funds would not be immediately replenished by promised returns on investments.
"We've had to make grave sacrifices…all the while I view pictures of Michael driving high-priced cars, living a lavish life and socializing with celebrity types," one of the victim's letters reads.
As expected, reaction and comments from people around the web after the prison sentence runs the gamut, from blaming the victims for believing in an 100% return in 60 days and calling it foolish to beyond -- not only on the Detroit Free Press article linked to above, but also on Twitter: