Listen Live


Take full advantage of the trusted Winans name, a gospel dynasty and Detroit church powerhouse.

Use sophisticated-sounding investments like a “Saudi Arabian crude oil bond” to sell unsophisticated investors and churchgoers the chance of a lifetime.

Play up the idea that oil prices are skyrocketing.

Mix in some greed and a so-called guaranteed chance to double your money in 60 days.

And well, you’ve got the recipe for what investigators call another Michigan-based investment scam.

Hundreds of Detroit-area and Michigan investors lost as much as $11 million to a Ponzi scheme involving a Saudi Arabian crude oil bond scam connected to Michael Winans Jr., according to state regulators.

“Michael Winans Jr. used the family name and connections in the Detroit religious community to prey on church members,” said Jason Moon, a spokesman for the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation.

Winans could not be reached for comment.

Regulators pass case on

State regulators say they’ve subpoenaed 50 bank accounts in trying to unwind this alleged scam that they said began in 2007 and started surfacing in 2008. They spent 14 months on the case. State regulators say they are passing their investigation to local, state and federal authorities, who could file criminal or civil cases, if necessary.

“There are few winners here outside Mr. Winans Jr.,” said Ken Ross, OFIR commissioner, in a statement.

‘No oil bond’

The Detroit Police Department has investigated the alleged scam as well.

“There was no oil bond,” said Detroit Police Inspector Maurice McClure. “Some people truly thought it was a windfall.”

He said many people were scammed through the churches — including a report of it involving a church as far away as Alaska. He said people thought it was legitimate — and a way to make money as oil prices went up. Investors later claimed that they did not make any money but instead lost it.

“One lady lost her home and she was living in a car,” McClure said.

Ameer El, 41, formerly of Detroit, said Thursday that he invested about $7,500 of his buyout money from Chrysler and lost it. He heard about the investment from a friend of a friend and attended a seminar at the New Genesis Beginnings Church in Detroit. He had faith in the Winans name — and the fact that the seminar was in a church.

“I can’t believe that somebody that calls themselves men of God,” he said. “They have used the Bible and the church to disguise their schemes. It’s not right, not right.”

Read more here.