Gospel singing superstar CeCe Winans has called on supporters to sign a petition to help keep her nephew, Michael Winans Jr., from serving a nearly 14-year prison term for wire fraud that targeted mostly churchgoers.
Winans pointed fans to an online petition via her Twitter account, writing: "Please help my nephew Michael Winans Jr to stay free from prison. Praying for Gods mercy, believing for a miracle!"
Michael Winans, 31, was scheduled by court order to surrender to a Federal Corrections Institute on Thursday, but that did not stop his award-winning aunt from helping to petition Sean Cox to review the music producer's sentence of 13 years and nine months. Winans claims he alone was not responsible for collecting $8 million from 1,200 people for fake Saudi Arabian crude oil bonds. Additionally, he says he was wrongly advised by his case attorney to plead guilty, and keep quiet about repaying 75 percent of those from whom he did take money.
"My family and I maintain I was targeted because of the Winans' name, and I didn't even know I was a target. We believe a severe injustice has occurred in my case. My character, name and livelihood are immensely affected by this situation," reads a statement from Winans included in the petition.
"My profession as a successful music producer is compromised because the stories paint me as a swindler. My wife feels unsafe and insecure because of this injustice, the harsh prison sentence and the resulting chaotic state of our life. We are raising a one-year-old daughter that is being negatively impacted. I pride myself on being a person of integrity and will fight this injustice. My reputation and family's good name MUST be restored back to an excellent standing."
Winans, who describes himself as a "Grammy-nominated Bad Boy hitman" and has produced music for Diddy, Chris Brown, Michelle Williams and others, was unsuccessful last week in convincing Judge Cox to extend his day of surrender. Days after the Detroit, Mich., district judge's decision, Winans, at the advisement of his new attorney, released a detailed statement offering his side of the story.
"There are numerous stories out there claiming I stole millions of dollars from innocent people. That is not true," he said in the press statement.
"I'm not blameless and I'm willing to take responsibility for my mistakes, but I am not willing to take responsibility for what others did in my name," Winans added. "Let it be clear, I did not start this investment. My name was used without my permission to solicit money by a lot of people, including Tim Hunt, the creator of the fraudulent [Saudi oil bond] investment."
Winans also revealed that his defense team, headed by Frank Eaman, was currently exploring ways to get his case back before Cox to have his sentence reduced. A defense fund has also been launched and is counting on donations from Winans' supporters.
It is unclear if Winans and his team will be successful in getting his case reviewed. The Care2 petition titled "Michael Winans Jr FREE" has garnered 1,073 signatures, with the goal being 2,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, Winans is currently serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J., and has an expected release date of May 1, 2025.