After a judge denied a request to delay the start of his nearly 14-year prison sentence, music producer and convicted financial fraudster Michael Winans Jr. is making an appeal to the public in an attempt to set the record straight about the investment scheme that prosecutors said netted him $8 million from 1,200 people, many of them churchgoers.
"There are numerous stories out there claiming I stole millions of dollars from innocent people. That is not true," says an emphatic Winans in a video statement sent this week to The Christian Post and many other media organizations. The video, included in a press packet, is part of Winans' efforts to revamp his case after he was convicted of wire fraud and sentenced to 13 years and nine months in federal prison in February in a Detroit, Mich., courtroom.
"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 states in the video. "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 claims in his press statement that he never received much of the money that was being collected in his name by individuals unknown to him, and alleges that instead of the $8 million he was convicted of collecting from investors, he is actually responsible for an estimated $1.2 million in losses.
Winans, who now has a new defense team, claims he was badly counseled by his previous attorney and because of his advice, failed to notify the court that he has allegedly repaid 75 percent of the investors from whom he collected money.
The new defense team representing Winans is reportedly exploring how they might have their client re-sentenced based on crimes for which they believe he is actually culpable.
"The calculation of loss that Michael Winans is responsible for is a complicated matter that was never undertaken by Michael Winans' trial counsel. Currently, I am undertaking that calculation and it appears that Michael was held responsible for more than six times the amount of loss that he caused," stated Winans' attorney, Frank Eaman, in a separate statement.
In addition to asking for "the benefit of the doubt, and also your prayers, until all of the facts have been presented," Winans has invited supporters to donate to a legal fund set up in his name.
Watch the video of Winans discussing his $8 million fraud case:
In addition to a video statement on the court case, Winans also released a new song, aptly titled "My Side of the Story." In the r&b track, the music producer and Grammy nominee claims he doesn't "have a bone in his body that would ever want to cause anybody pain" and thanks God for His presence and mercy during the trial.
Judge Sean Cox, who denied last week Winans' request to extend his date of surrender, chastised the music producer during his February sentencing, saying he found it troubling that Winans had taken advantage of "good, decent church-going people."
The 30-year-old nephew of award-winning recording artists Bebe and Cece "repented" at the time and insisted that he participated in the fraudulent investment in good faith, wanting to help people better their lives.
I caused "financial and emotional damage. For that I repent," he told Cox, according to the Detroit Free Press.
In addition to being sentenced to 13 years and nine months in a federal correctional facility, Winans was ordered to repay each investor. Six hundred people are waiting for a total of $4.8 million to be repaid, according to prosecutors.
When asked Tuesday by The Christian Post why Winans expects the public to trust his claims, much less feel confident in making donations to his legal fund, his media representative, Avance Communications, Inc., responded via email:
"Michael spent his own money paying investors back. He will continue to pay investors back. He needs funds to pay his defense team who is trying to correct his sentence based on the amount of loss he actually caused, not some fictitious amount. The sooner he can get out of prison, the sooner he can go back to work to pay off the rest of the investors."
The email sent to CP by Avance Communications, Inc. President and CEO Acquanetta Pierce Glass insists Winans is telling the truth and has chosen to speak out at the suggestion of his new legal team.
Winans is scheduled to voluntary surrender on Thursday to begin serving his sentence.