Home arrow NewsBreak arrow Angel Food Founders Sentenced
Angel Food Founders Sentenced
Friday, 30 August 2013

August 30--  The Athens Banner-Herald reports the family that founded Angel Food Ministeries has been sentenced in federal court.  The ministry distributed discounted food through many churches and charitable organizations in Georgia.

"The founders of a Walton County-based ministry that distributed discounted groceries to needy families nationwide were sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Macon on charges they conspired to use the nonprofit Angel Food Ministries to defraud volunteers and the government.

ImageWesley Joseph “Pastor Joe” Wingo was sentenced to seven years in prison. His wife, Linda, received five year’s probation. Their son, Andrew Wingo, also drew a seven-year prison term.

The Wingos struck a plea bargain that allowed them to avoid a possible maximum prison sentence of 85 years. Judge C. Ashley Royal also ruled that Wesley and Andrew Wingo must forfeit a total of $3.9 million.

The Wingos had been charged in a 49-count indictment that accused them of establishing nonprofit and for-profit companies to funnel Angel Food funds for their own use. After receiving nearly $7 million in a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Angel Food bought a large distribution center in Monroe and used its tax-exempt status to gain volume discounts from various food vendors. While growing from a local to a national organization, Angel Food used churches throughout the country to coordinate thousands of volunteers who distributed food to the needy in more than 40 states.

Because it was a nonprofit and its distribution network was largely manned by volunteers, Angel Food brought in revenues that significantly exceeded expenses.

As a result, authorities said, Wesley and Linda Wingo bought jewelry, houses and cars, and used embezzled funds to finance gambling trips and vacations, and even make a down payment on a private jet, according to the indictment.

“Pure and simple, this case is about greed,” U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said in a statement released late Thursday afternoon.

“When people gave their volunteer labor to Angel Food Ministries because they believed they were supposed to help their fellow man, little did they know that they were supporting the Wingos’ lavish lifestyle,” Moore said.

In an agreement reached with prosecutors earlier this year, Wesley and Andrew Wingo each pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Linda Wingo pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony, the legal term for knowing about her family’s wrongdoings and not reporting it to authorities.

Edward Tolley, the Athens attorney who represented Linda Wingo but acted as family spokesman after Thursday’s sentencing, said the Wingos unwittingly found themselves involved in criminal activity.

“I think this case more than any other reflects the danger of unguided use of a (tax-exempt) corporation,” Tolley said. “When you operate a nonprofit organization you cannot treat it as your own and that’s the mistake that was made by the Wingo family.”

The Wingos started Angel Food Ministries in 1994, when they fed 34 Monroe families from their back porch. Their operation grew to include a network of churches and became one of Walton County’s largest employers. At its peak in 2008, Angel Food distributed boxed groceries to more than 500,000 families each month in 45 states.

The nonprofit built its multi-million distribution network by buying food in bulk from national suppliers, repackaging it and selling the boxes of groceries for about $30 each.

The FBI raided Angel Food’s Monroe headquarters in February 2009. The nonprofit laid off all of its workers and permanently closed its doors in September 2011."

 
< Prev   Next >
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement


Copyright © 2014 Southeast Georgia Today Web Portal
This Site is Best Viewed with Screen Resolution of 1024 X 768 Pixels
Website Design & Hosting by Red Wheeler Associates, LLC