Winans relied on unwitting friends to round up investors, a trait of a classic Ponzi scheme. When the bonds turned out to phony, investors angrily turned on the people who recruited them.
“There are lots of marriages that have been destroyed. I know family members who aren’t speaking to each other,” Tara Hurt told the judge. The Detroit-area resident declined further comment outside court.
U.S. District Judge Sean Cox read from some of the 50 letters written by victims. He said a young woman joined the Army because her family had lost money that was intended for her college education. He noted that Winans made his pitch from church pulpits.
“Fraud on good, decent church-going people — that was very, very troubling to me,” Cox said.
Cox chose a sentence that was in the guideline range of 12 ½ years to 15 ½ years in prison.
“Investor fraud schemes like this one are just a fancy way to steal other people’s money,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.