Angel Food Ministries Founders Plead Guilty to Fraud, Theft Charges
Wesly Joseph Wingo, aka Pastor Joe Wingo, his wife Linda and their son plead guilty in the U.S. District Court in Macon on Monday. They will be sentenced in May.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Macon confirmed that Pastor Joseph Wingo, his wife Linda and son Andy plead 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 plead guilty to 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 in-depth 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 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.