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Member of Winans gospel singing family charged with operating $8M Ponzi scheme
Sep-15-2012 1108 0


A member of the Winans gospel music family has been charged with fraud after authorities uncovered a scam involving more than $8 million and bogus oil bonds.

Michael Winans Jr. plans to plead guilty, defense attorney William Hatchett said Thursday.

Winans knew the Saudi Arabian oil bonds weren't real, but he continued to accept money from more than 1,000 investors in 2007 and 2008, according to a filing this week in Detroit federal court.

He recycled the money among investors, a trait of Ponzi schemes, and also used cash for his personal use, the government said.

Michigan regulators in 2010 said Winans Jr. used connections in Detroit churches to lure investors.

"My client has told me it is his full intention to repay or somehow put these people back to where they were before they became involved," Hatchett said.

Winans is a third-generation member of one of gospel music's first families. He's the grandson of Delores "Mom" Winans and David "Pop" Winans Sr., and son of Michael Winans Sr., a member of The Winans, a quartet of brothers. His uncle, Marvin Winans, gave the eulogy at Whitney Houston's funeral.

"There are no other members of this great family implicated or involved in any fashion," Hatchett said. "This is a very difficult time for this bright and gifted young man. His family stands beside him and they intend to see him through this."

He said Winans likely would make a court appearance within 10 days.

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Sasha Goldstein Aug-30-2014 134 0
An Atlanta police officer was busted trying to skip town Thursday, nearly one week after he kidnapped a woman he met online, took her to a secluded suburban area, shot her and then set her dead body on fire, police said.

Tahreem Zeus Rana, 23, was caught around 8:30 a.m. Thursday after he tried to board a flight to Monterey, Mexico, possibly en route to India, WSB-TV reported.

The murder suspect was on the no-fly list, cops said, and has since been fired.

"We are shocked and saddened by these developments,” the department said of the three-year veteran. “The officer has been relieved from duty, and is in a non-enforcement status."

Rana met 26-year-old Vernicia Woodard on Backpage.com for a “romantic exchange” in Rana’s hometown of Hapeville, a southern Atlanta suburb, police there said. He took the woman to a rural part of the town, shot her several times, then lit her on fire, police said.

A city worker found the burning body on Elm Street the morning of Aug. 22, the news station reported.

"He took her to a secluded area to do the crime and then, after killing her, used some kind of fuel to light her body on fire," Hapeville police Detective Stephen Cushing told the station.

Police believe he used his service weapon to kill the Woodard, mother to an 8-year-old. He became the prime suspect after the woman’s phone records led investigators to Backpage.com and eventually Rana, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

A “wanted” poster featuring Rana’s picture was released to the public Wednesday.

The murder comes as a shock to Hapeville police officers, who recalled watching Rana grow up in the community. He had a clean disciplinary file.

"I've been a police officer in city of Hapeville for 15 years and actually saw this young man grow up and heard him say, 'When I grow up, I want to be a police officer," Det. Cushing told the station.

Rana faces charges of murder, arson, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He’s next due in court Sept. 12.

"Being someone who works in law enforcement ... it hurts a lot more to know that it was somebody in law enforcement," Woodard's sister, Tashara Gilyard, told WSB as she held back tears.

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Aug-30-2014 62 0
The death of a 45-year-old man while in police custody has been ruled a homicide, the medical examiner’s office said Friday.

The coroner said Ronald Singleton’s July 13 death in Midtown was brought on by “physical restraint by police during excited delirium.”

The medical examiner also said heart disease and obesity contributed to the Kips Bay man’s death.

Singleton had 61 arrests on his record, including busts for drugs, assaults and weapons possession.

Ronald Singleton, 45, died July 13 after being restrained by police.

His heartbroken wife, Lyn Warren Singleton, 44, admitted that her husband of 19 years had a drug history and multiple run-ins with the police. The 5-foot-7, 210-pound man “went into a panic” when cops approached him, she said.

“He was never good with police,” she said. “He always went into hysterics — this is before he even started indulging.”

She blames the cops for not giving the father of four and grandfather of three the medical attention he needed.
“They didn’t pay attention to him when he was crying for help,” she said. “Someone having a heart attack is different signs than someone just bugging out.”

On the day he died, Singleton was acting “overly irate and irrational” in the back of a taxi near St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Ave. and E. 51st St., police said.

The cabbie flagged cops down after Singleton cursed and screamed at him during the 12 a.m. altercation. When Singleton tried to fight off arriving officers, cops restrained him, putting him in a protective full-body wrap known as a burrito. He was not arrested, police said.

An ambulance was taking Singleton to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation when he went into cardiac arrest, officials said. It was immediately redirected to St. Luke’s—Roosevelt Hospital, where Singleton died.

Singleton’s widow said a detective called and told her that her husband was at the hospital. When she called St. Luke’s, she said, a Dr. Lee told her Singleton was dead on arrival and wore handcuffs.

No disciplinary action has been taken against the officers involved in subduing Singleton, a police source said. The Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the incident.

Singleton’s death occurred four days before Eric Garner died on July 17 after Staten Island cops put him in a chokehold — a practice banned by the NYPD in 1993. Garner’s death has been ruled a homicide.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who led a march against police brutality in Staten Island last weekend, vowed to investigate Singleton’s death thoroughly.

“It’s disturbing ... I’m very disturbed,” Sharpton said. “These are the reasons why we have to deal with changing police policy and training.”


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Aug-29-2014 205 0
The Opelousas Police Department is searching for a man who has been missing for about two weeks.

Alvin Joseph Thompson, also known as "Bum Bum," was last seen the Lafayette area roughly two weeks ago.

Anyone with information on Thompson's whereabouts is asked to call Opelousas Police at 337-948-2500.

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Aug-29-2014 147 0
Police records show two officers used their Tasers repeatedly to try to make Gregory Towns get up.

Thursday, Towns' family attorney, Chris Stewart, filed a lawsuit against the city of East Point.

“This is a direct violation of their own rules,” Stewart said. “You cannot use a Taser to escort or prod a subject.”

The lawsuit comes after the April death of Towns after he was repeatedly "drive-stunned" with Tasers by East Point police in an apparent effort to make him get up and walk after a foot chase.

Stewart said he is using copies of the city's own documents to piece together what happened in behalf of Towns' family.

Stewart alleges records combined with eyewitness accounts show two officers violated the city's standard operating procedures for Tasers.

“He wasn't cursing. He wasn't being abusive. He was saying, ‘I’m tired,’” Stewart said.

Stewart said Taser logs, combined with other information from the city, show two officers triggered their Tasers 13 times around the time in question: 10 for Sgt. Marcus Eberhart and three times for officer Howard Weems.

Stewart acknowledged the documents don't show the Taser made contact for each of the 13 trigger pulls. He said officer accounts vary, but none comes close to 13 Taser stuns.

“This situation is indefensible,” Stewart said.

Dale Preiser, one of Weems' lawyers at the Police Benevolent Association, said Weems continues to appeal his firing and Weems's actions did not cause Towns' death, but he does not wish to respond to the Towns' family attorney's comments.

In a statement, Weems' lawyers have maintained, "use of drive stun to gain compliance is permitted under federal and Georgia law."

A spokesperson said the city does not comment on pending or potential litigation.

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Nina Golgowski Aug-29-2014 96 0
The names of two Los Angeles police officers who shot and killed an unarmed, mentally challenged man more than two weeks ago have been released.

Police identified 25-year-old Ezell Ford's shooters Thursday as Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, who were assigned to the Newton Division gang enforcement detail, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The release of their names follows public outrage over the Aug. 11 shooting, during which three bullets were planted in Ford's back while he was lying on the ground, said family.

Wampler has served on the force for 12 years while Villegas has served for eight years.

Police had said that their delay in releasing the two officers' names pended assessment into whether it could threaten their safety.

"In this particular case, it was necessary to investigate evidence brought to the department's attention regarding potential threats to the safety of the officers and ensure that measures were taken to mitigate those threats," the LAPD said in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile Ford's autopsy report still remains hidden from public review due to a security hold placed by police.

They are also declining to say why the officers approached him while he was walking down the street.

Police have only said that he tackled an officer and tried to grab his gun.

Witnesses have disputed those claims, however.

"They had him in the corner and were beating him, busted him up, for what reason I don't know he didn't do nothing," Leroy Hill told the Huffington Post. "The next thing I know I hear a 'pow!' while he's on the ground. They got the knee on him. And then I hear another 'pow!' No hesitation. And then I hear another 'pow!' Three times."

One witness has additionally claimed that one officer yelled "shoot him" before they killed the man on the street.

Ford's death came two days before the similar, unarmed shooting death of Missouri teen Michael Brown which sparked nationwide demonstrations and protests.

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In a $40 million federal lawsuit, five people arrested recently in Ferguson, Missouri, accuse police of using "wanton and excessive force" and treating U.S. citizens "as if they were war combatants."

A complaint filed Thursday alleges that police officers from Ferguson and St. Louis County used unnecessary force and made unjustified arrests as they cracked down on protests after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown earlier this month.

The lawsuit lists Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Ferguson officer Justin Cosma, several unnamed officers and the city and county governments as defendants. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A St. Louis County police spokesman declined to comment, referring inquiries to the county counselor's office.

The suit -- which includes accusations of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and assault and battery -- details circumstances allegedly surrounding several arrests between August 11-13:

-- Tracey White was about to buy an ice cream sundae at McDonald's when officers "in what appeared to be army uniforms, carrying rifles and sticks and wearing helmets" entered and ordered her to leave, according to the lawsuit. She was told to shut up, thrown to the ground and handcuffed after criticizing officers for the way they were treating her son, the lawsuit claims.

-- Dewayne Matthews was walking to his mother's house when a group of officers in military uniforms shot rubber bullets at him, the lawsuit alleges. He fell into a creek or sewer, the suit says, where officers "pounced on him, slammed his face into the concrete, and pushed his head into the water to the point that he felt he was going to be drowned."

-- Kerry White was shooting footage and holding his camera out his car window when an officer snatched his camera, "took out his memory card and threw it to the ground," the lawsuit says.

-- Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green were peacefully protesting, the lawsuit says, when police in riot gear fired tear gas and what appeared to be stun grenades in their direction, then "hurled racial epithets at them, while punching and kicking them the entire time."

CNN has not independently confirmed details of the arrests.

Police tactics to calm the crowds drew sharp criticism, including a rebuke from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

"At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message," Holder said as the protests unfolded.

As criticism of police tactics mounted, Gov. Jay Nixon Missouri tapped State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson to head up security in Ferguson on August 14.

This week, Johnson said police were scaling back their efforts in Ferguson now that the situation has cooled.

Belmar, the St. Louis County Police Chief, told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't regret his agency's decisions to fire tear gas at protesters. That approach, he said, was much better than using nightsticks or dogs.

Even though President Barack Obama has called for a review of military equipment sales to local police deparments in light of the clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Belmar said that such equipment is often necessary.

"I never envisioned a day that we would ever see that kind of equipment used against protesters," he said. "But I also never imagined a day in 28 years when we would see that kind of criminal activity spin out of peaceful demonstrations."

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Aug-28-2014 123 0
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?

That's the question at the heart of the looming legal battles over the controversial case.

What charges could Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson face? What would state and federal authorities have to prove in order to pursue charges? And does the fact that the gunman was a police officer change how the case could play out?

Here's a look at what legal analysts say could happen next.

Was a state crime committed?

A local grand jury has started hearing testimony, but that doesn't mean any particular charges are being recommended by prosecutors at this point, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

"An investigation is just an investigation. ... It's just something that they're looking into," Toobin said.

For a criminal case to go forward, the grand jury must decide whether a crime was committed, and whether it's more likely than not that the accused person -- in this case, Wilson -- committed the crime, said CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor.

After a fatal shooting, a range of charges are typically on the table, said CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos, a criminal defense attorney. "They're going to be anything in the spectrum of murder, manslaughter (or) negligent homicide," he said.

The prosecutor will make a recommendation to the grand jury.

From there, the grand jury could decide to indict Wilson, or that there isn't enough evidence to move forward. In order to bring charges against Wilson, nine of 12 jurors will have to agree.

But the prosecutor plays a key role in the hearings, which are not open to the public.

"The grand jury ultimately decides whether to indict, but it's 100% the prosecution's show. ... The prosecutor could, in theory, make less of an effort if he doesn't want someone indicted," Cevallos said.

Some residents and community leaders contend St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has deep ties to the police and has favored law enforcement in criminal cases.

J.Tom Morgan, a former district attorney in Georgia who knows McCulloch, defended him as fair and objective.

"I believe Mr. McCulloch will present the facts and the evidence to the grand jury and the Missouri law as he is required to do so," Morgan said. "We do not put defendants on trial just to see what a jury will do."

Were Brown's civil rights violated?

As part of a federal civil rights investigation, authorities are interviewing witnesses and weighing a number of factors.

Key among them: whether Wilson exhibited "racial hostility," Toobin said.

"The most important thing would be, did he say anything that indicates racial hostility, either before, or after, or during (the shooting)?" Toobin said.

Wilson is white, and Brown was African-American.

"The bar is very high," Hostin said, "and they're difficult cases to prove."

But race doesn't have to be a factor in the shooting for investigators to allege there was a federal civil rights violation, Cevallos said.

Federal statute says it's a crime for government officials "to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution."

Federal prosecutors could argue that Brown's right to life was violated, Cevallos said, but it's a tough case to make.

"They have to show that the officer intended to deprive somebody of that constitutional right. They would have to show intent to kill...which is not a particularly easy showing to make," he said.

The fact that Wilson is a police officer could influence whether he faces charges -- and how the case plays out.

"Often jurors are extremely sympathetic to police officers," said Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and a former federal prosecutor. "They think, even if he made a mistake, he's got the hardest job in the world, so they often want to cut police officers some slack."

Authorities also weigh different factors when deciding to prosecute police.

"There are issues that come up when you're prosecuting cases against police officers, because police officers by the very nature of their jobs can use deadly force," Hostin said.

Police officers have the same rights civilians have to self defense, Cevallos said, and they also have the right to make arrests.

"To do that," he said, "they can use deadly force to prevent an escape."

If Brown was trying to get away from the officer, Cevallos said, the Supreme Court case Tennessee v. Garner allows the use of deadly force when an alleged felon is trying to flee if "the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."

But given the number of times Brown was shot, along with newly released audio that may show a pause in rapid gunfire, Wilson has a lot of explaining to do, the analysts said.

"Evidence suggests that he wasn't fleeing and was facing the officer," Cevallos said. "If that's true ... the officer has to explain six shots. He has to explain a reason for each of those six shots. He has to have justifiably been in fear of his life or fear of some imminent serious bodily harm."

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alan duke Aug-28-2014 140 0
The IRS filed a tax lien against Vanessa Williams, saying the singer-actress owes the federal government $369,249 for her 2011 earnings.

The lien was filed at the New York City register office on August 13, 2014, according to a document on that website.

The publicist for Williams did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

Williams, 51, was the first black Miss America, but her reign soon erupted into scandal when nude photos of her appeared in Penthouse magazine.

Her career soared in the aftermath, with music, television and Broadway performances that earned her Grammy, Emmy and Tony nominations.

A mother of four children, Williams lives in New York.

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VictoriaTaylor Aug-27-2014 171 0
The bride will wear a gown with a corporate logo.

Courtney McKenzie, 27, and fiancé Jamil Newell, 34, are trying to get businesses to sponsor their nuptials and cover the $30,000 price tag of their dream wedding in Thailand.

The enterprising Orlando, Fla., couple, slated to get married in December, launched their Sponsor Our Wedding campaign and website last week.

McKenzie, a former beauty queen turned entrepreneur with a mind for marketing, told the Daily News she came up with the idea in middle of the night. She talked it out with her husband-to-be, and they decided to go for it.

"We're still going to get married either way," she said. "It was one of those things that we just wanted to see if it worked."

And, so far, it is working.

McKenzie said they already have a handful of sponsors on board, including a hotel that will provide lodging and a company that has agreed to sponsor the wedding bands (McKenzie was clear that Newell purchased the engagement ring).

They will also pick a brand's logo to incorporate into the groom's tuxedo and the bride's wedding dress.

This tidbit in particular has riled up people on the Internet, some of whom have called the plan tacky.

"Sarah Jessica Parker wore a logo on her dress at the Met Gala and it was fashionable," McKenzie pointed out, referencing the actress' Oscar de la Renta gown.

Logos will pop up on the newlywed's honeymoon wardrobe, and the newlyweds will be Instagramming and tweeting their 11-day trek through Thailand.

"The whole goal around it was to create something fun that would be fun to follow and watch," the bride-to-be said.

The couple's forthcoming nuptials have already generated a lot of buzz, and their initial wedding announcement has gotten nearly 42,000 likes on Facebook.

A portion of the money from the sponsors will be donated to two of their favorite charities — Positive Habitat for Aspiring Teens and Big Brothers Big Sisters, McKenzie said.

So, why do the husband-and-wife-to-be think companies should sponsor them?

"We are a young, fun couple who opted to have an adventure instead of a traditional wedding," they write on their website. "We have created several sponsorship categories that incorporate your amazing company in our one-of-a-kind social wedding."

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