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New Birth member speaks out about lawsuit against Eddie Long
Bishop Eddie Long faces more legal trouble, this time from members of his church.
October 21st, 2011
06:04 AM ET

New Birth member speaks out about lawsuit against Eddie Long

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - Lillian Wells said she had been laid off from her job, gone into real estate, and was looking for extra income when she went to church one Sunday and heard about a “sure thing.”

Two years later, Wells said her house is weeks away from foreclosure, she can barely pay for medication and she’s lost at least $122,000 in retirement savings.

“I’ve been hurt,” Wells said. “I’m looking for resolution and restitution at this point, and I haven’t gotten that.”

Wells’ story is at the center of a lawsuit that pits her against Bishop Eddie Long, one of the nation’s most well-known televangelists, and a charismatic investor who Long reportedly compared to Moses.

Wells and nine others are suing Long, claiming he “coerced” them into investing in a Ponzi scheme that wiped out at least $1 million in their retirement savings.

The lawsuit said Long persuaded members of New Birth Missionary Church in Georgia to invest with Ephren Taylor Jr., a “child-prodigy entrepreneur” representing City Capital Corp. The lawsuit also names Taylor and City Capital as defendants.

Art Franklin, a spokesman for Long, said neither Long nor New Birth would comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit comes six months after Long reached an out-of-court settlement with four men who had accused him of pressuring them into sexual relationships.

In  October 2009,  Long invited Taylor to New Birth for a weeklong seminar called the “Wealth Tour Live.” Taylor urged church members at the seminar to invest in “socially conscious investments” that would provide “guaranteed income,” according to the lawsuit filed in DeKalb County State Court.

Taylor, however, was not licensed to sell investments and City Capital was insolvent, information Long and New Birth knew or should have known, the lawsuit said.

“The entire Wealth Tour Live event and subsequent investments made by plaintiffs turned out to be nothing more than a fraudulent scheme designed to perpetuate an ongoing Ponzi scheme,” the lawsuit said.

Taylor could not be reached for comment. His one-time spokesperson said she no longer represented him and didn’t know how to contact him.

Calls to an Atlanta number for City Capital were met with a persistent busy signal.

Taylor, however, went public earlier this year after Long posted a YouTube video asking him to return about $1 million to New Birth members whose investments in City Capital had gone “sour.”

“Please do what’s right,” Long said, addressing Taylor in the video. “You’re a great fellow. You’re a great man. You do great things. Let’s settle this so these families can move on.”

Taylor responded with a public statement in which he said City Capital’s legal team had personally contacted New Birth to “resolve, refund and restructure any potential issues.”

Wells said she was never directly contacted by Taylor. She said she was contacted by some attorneys representing Taylor, who asked her to mail some documents to them so she could get her money back.

Wells said she mailed certified documents to a post office box given to her by the attorneys, but she did not hear from anyone and her letter was returned.

Wells, who has been a member of New Birth since 1987, said she was inspired when she first heard Taylor speak during a Sunday morning worship service at New Birth.

Long, according to the lawsuit, introduced Taylor to the congregation as a minister who would base everything he said on the word of God.

“They came down and said you don’t have to depend on the stock market, this is a sure thing, a guarantee of getting a return on your money because it’s not driven by the stock market,” she said.

When Long vouched for Taylor, Wells said she decided to invest her retirement savings. She never saw a return, though, and lost “in excess” of $122,000, the lawsuit claims.

Wells said she still attends and gives money to New Birth.

When asked if she trusted Long, she chuckled and sighed.

“That’s a difficult question. If I had the dollars to invest in something now, I wouldn’t go into one of the things that he would recommend.”

Though some of her co-plaintiffs have left New Birth, others remain, she said.

“We want to stay and see this through,” she said.

Wells said Long’s legal difficulties have taken a toll on the church. The church was half-full during summer worship services.

“It’s beginning to grow again,” she said. “People are coming back."

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Christianity • Church • Courts • Pastors

soundoff (265 Responses)
  1. bird

    When will these fools ever learn?? Religion is the biggest scam EVER. Any one who follows someone's advice because he is "a man of God", deserves to be ripped off. Look at the majority of the crime in the world, religion is behind it.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Draz

      There are thousands of cases just like this going on all over the world, all the time. The only reason this one instance is in the news is because the guilty party is a pastor. Just another swell opportunity to let you Christian-bash. If the dude was an atheist, nobody'd ever hear about it apart from the parties directly involved, and maybe a 6th page local newspaper tag line.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Drz: He is headline news b/c anyone regardless of belief who does this deserves to be pointed out to society and yes, if he was an Atheist he would be front page news...this is not a small time crime. However, the fact that he used religion in his scheme, does make it another plus on the Atheist side.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  2. Rock

    This guy's a pimp

    October 21, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  3. News fer Jews

    You trusted a preacher? A man of the cloth? You put your future into the hands of someone who talks about believing in a talking snake in a fantasy garden where eating apples is forbidden? Sorry for your misfortune.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • kimsland

      I go one better, I say put that preacher in jail

      October 21, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  4. SoJax

    Religious leaders in the US are often power hungry politicians with too many skeletons to get elected. My theory is the bigger the church the more likely thats the case. Its the best tax free business in the nation.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  5. keeper

    It is the consumers job to call their State's Insurance Regulators to make sure that the advisor is licensed and check his/her compliance history regardless of who suggested they invest with this person. If you're going to make business decisions with your retirement, than sure better make smart choices. Eddie Long may have introduced them to this man and it wasn't smart on his part either but at the same time this was a business decision and unfortunately all the guy will get is jail time and a few fines and he'll be back out and quite rich off of them not fortunate situation to be in but simply a bad decision on all the people involved.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Thomas the Doubter

      apologizing for a pimp preacher who probably got a cut from those "investments".. yeah Right!

      December 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  6. jordan

    If your own Religious figure is ripping you off for money what about all that big money that gets thrown in Washington ?

    October 21, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  7. Joe

    I stopped dealing with churches financially after two eye-opening experiences: 1). When I learned that a little old lady in our church who had given faithfully to the collection plate for over 40 years fell on hard times and was required to "fill out an application" for assistance with her $53 electric bill. 2). In another instance, at another church, the primary focus was never on ways to help the poor or needy with the funds raised, it was on "a new building" or "taking care of the pastor" or "putting on a program." Yes, it's referred to as a "storehouse" in scripture (Mal. 3:10), but the church is neither a bank nor a investment firm; it NOT SUPPOSED to be about hoarding cash and showing that Christians who are doing well know how to self-indulge. Sadly, that's what some of them do best!!

    October 21, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • kimsland

      I fitted a new computer server to a church once.
      It was a mere 150K dollars, not including my labor
      The church have a LOT of money, just look at the damn building itself, it sickens me that people are poor whilst pastors drive jaguars.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Draz

      Filling out a benevolence application is unreasonable? So, anyone who comes to the door asking for money should just have cash thrown at them, no questions asked, no paper trail?

      Any ministry, church, or secular charity that operated that way would have a real hard time at an IRS audit. A woman who gave faithfully to a church for 30 years should appreciate knowing that the church's leadership takes their responsibility for stewardship seriously, and that they're handling the church's financial matters properly. The secular world has a ZERO tolerance policy when it comes to any privileges given to churches in regards to non-profit or tax-exempt status... yet, you're very quick to criticize a church for correctly following secular laws and procedures, when it suits you.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • humanbean

      Ironic how it's basically the reason why Jesus was said to of gone after the church and pharisees in his time. I am no believer, but it's just another example of how people who call themselves Christians are nowhere near Christ like.

      "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. "

      October 21, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • W247

      KImsland –

      Not sure what church you were working at but my pastor drives an old beater 4X4. Another pastor I worked with didn't have a reliable car so he would ride his bicycle from his house out to the churches to preach.

      Don't paint all churches/Christians/Pastors with the same brush.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Draz

      @humanbean

      Thank you for speaking up, humanbean. My pastor has been senior pastor of our church of 700+ members for 20 years, and just within the past 12 months he bought his first-ever new car. He's been driving cheap beaters forever, hasn't taken a raise in at least the 4 years I've been on staff, and puts more than 25% of his salary right back in the plate.

      October 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  8. kimsland

    'The church was half-full during summer worship services.'

    The people are finally waking up to this nonsense and deciding to enjoy their time AWAY from the church.
    Good on them, you are finally seeing the true light (the sunshine during a lovely Sunday)
    Our family tends to go to the beach or to the parks or even ride our bikes around and sometimes we even call in on other friends who are ALSO not attending church.

    Generally Sunday is the best day of the week to relax and enjoy life (if you're working during the week) especially with family and friends.
    Mind you I am rudely awoken many Sunday mornings from the 'lady' across the street screaming to her young children to get in the F'ing car as they get ready to go to their wasted time in church. If I was one of the kids there I'd hide from this beast and never go to church again.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • humanbean

      No, not really. Unfortunately they have moved on to another church to start the process all over again.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  9. Carolina

    She's not the only one who got "screwed." Perhaps her 120k was used in the out-of-court settlements to those four guys,,,

    October 21, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  10. Chris

    Deal with religion and churches.....YOU WILL GET RIPPED OFF AND HURT.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  11. mitchell

    whar da money ; bro;............i bee needin me some wine; u know da deal................

    October 21, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  12. dmvlive

    This is what happens when you put your greed ahead of your common sense. I can tell you one sure thing, there is NO SURE THING when it comes to investing your money. If you can't afford to take a loss, then you can not afford to invest. These people could have done just a little research and found out that this was a ponzi scheme. Sorry, I can't feel sorry for your loss.

    October 21, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • A. Wolf

      But GOD told them it was a sure thing! And as Pastor Long says, God wants everyone to be wealthy without contributing anything in return, because that is apparently possible.

      (Prosperity churches all have one thing in common: they casually ignore Matt. 19:24.)

      October 21, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Kebos

      And the wise and smart people among us, ignore the whole bible!!!

      October 21, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  13. Joe

    Rick, good one. Pastors, Hustlers, Hedge Fund Mgrs..........

    October 21, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  14. Alvin

    The bible warns of all these wicked people in worship buildings. We are the church, gathering places are optional. It's not the leader of the building fault; They wanted to play worship God; so that was the fee $120,000. maybe next time they will; "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth". Jesus never taught prosperity, however he warned of storing up money and following man instead of God. Eddie Long is a divorced and re-married man. This means he preach what he don't believe. Jesus said, no divorce unless adultery and even then he never gave permission to re-marry to others.

    October 21, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • grumpy

      "The bible warns of all these wicked people in worship buildings." True that! You'll get better results burning a goat under an oak tree during the full moon.

      October 21, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Your spewing is one more example of how moronic and absolutely nonsensical the christianity belief is. Eddie Long interprets the bible one way, you interpret it another... neither have proof for what it means but yet they claim the other is wrong. It doesn't matter in reality if the man divorced and remarried, the laws of the land are what matter and they make it very clear that divorce and remarrying are fine. This man will pay by the laws of the land not the laws of the bible. He is not the victim here...he knew exactly what he was doing when he manipulated and mislead these people. It's time you realized that.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  15. grumpy

    I don't see why people are surprised when they get screwed like this. Churches and religious figures have been lying to and defrauding them about one thing or another ever since they started going. Maybe now they'll start to smarten up.

    October 21, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • jim

      i doubt it

      October 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  16. Alvin

    How can they fault satan seed? Clearly, they must be educated; they should have read the New testament. Where did Jesus teach prosperity? If I were the judge I would highlight scripture and throw her case out. I would recommend she REPENT to God and ask for forgiveness. If she was Holy spirit filled and knew god's word; she would have been warning others instead of being a victim to satan.

    October 21, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • nimitta

      Glad you're not the judge...have you ever heard of the separation of church and state?

      October 21, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Ahhhhhh

      If you were judge you would've been disbarred long before you got to hear this case.

      October 21, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      How exactly did she go from victim to guilty? She was mislead and manipulated by no fault of her own...you have a very screwed up way of looking at this. If there is any so-called repenting to be done, it should come from the a$$ that ripped her off...she did nothing wrong. This man belongs in jail and his organization should be forced to pay rest.itution to the people he conned along with a huge fine to the state. No matter what way this looked at, he needs to pay while amongst the living or he never will. I hope these people win!

      October 21, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Kebos

      Blah blah blah....

      There is no god, there is no holy spirit. But you do have a brain so start using it and put away the ridiculous notions of a big man in the sky out there somewhere. Everyone, inclunding you Alvin, it's time to grow up and be an adult. Unless of course you are under the age of 12 or so. In which case I would suggest you enjoy life as a kid and stop going to Sunday school. It's making a bad impression on you.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • Chel

      Your are right, no teaching on prosperity but warned about those who wants to be rich – they will have troubles. The love of money is the root of all evil. Prosperity preachers are forgetting what the Word said about laying up treasures on earth. Too many are worshiping at the feet of materials good and forgetting the basic teaching of the word. Daily contentment is what life is about. "Tonight your sole might be required of you and whose will these things be" Jesus said to the man who thought he had store enough to go in early retirement. Never seen a dead man take his riches with him.

      October 21, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  17. The Daver

    @Jimtanker: And church is an endless source of people who don’t quite know how to think critically.

    October 21, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • jsl123

      You mean "think for themselves"?

      October 21, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  18. vp

    Why is he still a pastor and not a prisoner?

    Why would anyone still go to him?

    October 21, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • Jimtanker

      People still go to them becaues they believe in things that dont exist; like a god, easy wealth, heaven.....

      October 21, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  19. Rick

    It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.
    W. C. Fields

    October 21, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  20. Jimtanker

    That is what you get when you take things on face value and dont think critically.

    P.T. Barnum was right.

    October 21, 2011 at 6:31 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.