The U.S. Attorney's Office in Macon confirmed that Pastor Joseph Wingo, his wife Linda and son Andy pleaded guilty to conspiring with each other and others to bilk millions from Angel Food Ministries. A fellow business associate, Harry Michaels, was also charged in the case.
According to a spokesperson at the Clerk's office in the U.S. District Court in Macon, the Wingos pleaded guilty to Count 40 of the 49 counts in the original indictment, filed in December 2011. Sentencing in the case is scheduled for May 29, 2013. Joe and Andy Wingo had remained in jail awaiting the trial.
The Wingos were charged after the once thriving charity went out of business in September 2011 after 17 years in operation, blaming the downturn in the economy. However, the ministry had been under a federal investigation that began in 2009. The York Daily Mail ran an indepth story in June 2009 outlining some of the Angel Food practices that prompted the investigation.
Angel Food Ministries was started in Walton County in 1994 and grew to a ministry that served more than 500,000 families nationwide. The low cost food boxes were distributed through local churches. All the buildings that once belonged to Angel Food Ministries were put on the market following the indictments.
In the original 49-count Indictment, the U.S. Attorney's office reported that the most serious charges carried a 20 year sentence.
The original 49 count indictment included Wire Fraud, Mail Fraud, Attempt to Commit Fraud, Theft from an Organization Receiving Federal Funds, Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property and Witness Tampering.
Correction: Please note the Wingos plead guilty to Count 40 on the original 49 count indictment, not 40 of the 49.
Count 40 reads as follows:
Count Forty-Four alleges that Defendants Joe Wingo, Andy Wingo and Harry Michaels committed the offense of Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 2314, by causing a certain check in the amount of $347,864.24, to be transported, transmitted, and transferred in interstate commerce knowing that the check contained funds that had been stolen, converted and taken by fraud. Each defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years imprisonment followed by 3 years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 mandatory assessment fee.
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