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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. ken

    Long overdue!

    October 21, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  2. Jerry

    The investors in any stock, bonds or companies need to assess their risk. There are no guaranteed returns. As soon as some tells an investor that, the investor should move onto something else. That is a huge red flag. Another issue, the Bible is very clear. DO NOT PLACE YOUR FAITH IN A MAN! Place your faith in Jesus Christ.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Neareau

      Uh, Jerry, is that because we know that your god/Jesus has delivered on his promise to come back and save us all in a generation? Oh, wait. I guess not.

      Well, your god seems to have delivered some pretty decent natural disasters and diseases that have killed a lot of people. That's an even worse return than a financial loss.

      No thanks. You can take your silly Jesus beliefs and shove them up your aft end.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • MnTaxpayer

      It seems she was putting her trust in Jesus Christ. It was through her church that she became a victim, and her 'Pastor' that is a con-man. Why did JC allow this to happen?

      October 21, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  3. SCAtheist

    Sue him, become a non-theist and help the rest of the losers in his church escape.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  4. rabbi long tongue

    Go forth my sheelpe and pay your dues.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  5. Bo

    Of course Long is crimnal, but Wells and any others like her were very foolish. It leaves me to wonder how she had the good sense to save $122,000 in the first place. Where is Reality, doesn't he have some copy and paste on this.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • chefdugan

      It speaks volumes about blacks in general when they put up with this piece of crap. I wonder what their reaction would be if he were white. Oh well, take a look at the rest of their "leaders."

      October 21, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  6. Pinolera

    When are people going to learn that anytime a preacher uses the word investment and God in the same sentence they need to get the heck out of there? Seriously? Was Jesus wealthy? No. Was any of his disciples? No! Why are people running to church to try to get rich? She lost $125.000 K she would have been better off putting that money in savings or a CD it may not make much interest but at least it would have been safe and she wouldn't have lost it.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • MIchelle

      It is evident that most of you do not know theWord or read the Bible. Accusing someone of something does not make it so. It is unfortunate that the woman lost her money but it was her responsibillity to check out any investment regardless of who made the recommendation. I attended that same service and decided it was not something I was interested in. You cannot not hold the church liable for a poor personal decision.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • William Demuth

      Of course you can Michelle.

      He is complicit. He shall be going to prison sooner than you think.

      This was not a poor investment, this was a con, run by a parasite, designed to defraud people.

      If he had pulled a stunt like that with my mom, he would look like Mr Gahafi does right about now.

      He is a scam artist, and his church needs to have the IRS crawl up its rear end.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  7. Gregory

    If people seriously heeded Jesus' teachings about the transience of wealth, the importance of not becoming obsessed with it and the need to lead a simpler, less possessive and acquisitive life, they'd flee from these so-called "televangelists" for the wolves in sheep's clothing they are.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Suzanna

      Amen!!!

      October 21, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • William Demuth

      If people realized Jesus is a complete fabrication designed to turn men into sheep, the world would be a MUCH better place.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  8. DARRELL BEZET

    IN THE LAST DAYS THER WILL BE FALSE WITNESSES AND CON ARTIES TO TAKE YOUR MONEY BEWEAR,READ YOUR BIBLE IT TELLS ALL ABOUT THEM BE NOT STUPID, JESUS IS REAL TO ME AMEN.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • William Demuth

      Darrel

      All caps make you seem illiterate.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Patrick

      The complete lack of grammar also makes you seem illiterate.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  9. mattski

    So many people seem to go through the world desperate for someone to trust, desperate for someone to tell them what to do.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  10. Nosurprise

    This is too sad. Again, people are being mislead by someone's god. I know people should know better, but many don't. Some of these churches are just big scams. Today, I saw a commercial on TV for a christian dating service. Yes, now god will help you find a mate. This is truly amazing...but a really smart way to make money.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Hey You

      Mislead by someone's God??? Nowhere in this article did it say that someone was claiming that God said they should invest. These people were mislead by greedy MEN who obviously skipped the part in the Bible where it states that the love of money is the root of all evil.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  11. john

    lol....you gave money or took advise from a televangelists?!....you deserve to get ripped off...how many time do religious people need to get ripped off by televangelists asking for money until they learn this has nothing to do with God....christian believe joseph didnt "f" mary..so they will believe anytime....oh i need 1 million dollars....god told me....please help

    October 21, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Long

      My Son John, Join me in partnership to fleece my people, I lke your post a lot. All I do is ask, if the people say yes and give me money why would I not take it?, Blame people my son, not me, All I do is love little boys and carry a bible, if you open my bible you will see no pages lol, just a pic of me and my lads,

      October 21, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  12. Patricksday

    A Ego Driven closet case, who wishes to destroy honest Gay relationships in favor of sneaky down low action. I would Love to see his Review with Jesus in the end.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  13. ilvpitz

    I'm sorry, but it's each one of the investors fault plain and simple. It's called personal responsibility. There is no such thing as a "sure thing" especially in investing. You fell for a scam. Investing in anything carries risks. You're just sad you lost and want to blame your stupid mistake on someone else. That's what wrong these days. Nobody takes responsibility for their own bad choices. It's always someone else's fault. I'd be mad too, but then again, I wouldn't fall for believing people when they say "this is the thing". Come on, use your brain. You don't get something for nothing in this life. Tuck your tail between your legs and never make this mistake again.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Long

      I posted this and I aprove the above message. Sucka

      October 21, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Len White

      I get the impression from what she said that she is taking responsibility. That doesn't mean that she shouldn't access the legal remedies available to her. Ponzi schemes and selling investments without a license are illegal, regardless of the victim's state of mind.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  14. Pete

    This is just more confirmation that organized religion in America is big business. The churches have done a masterful job of packaging, pricing, and distributing Jesus. Capitalism is alive and well in America.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Nosurprise

      Absolutely, and I think they should lose their tax -free status. Let them pay like every other business in the US.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Buyingandsellinginthechurch

      It is also confirmation that the package does not contain the real Jesus. You know the one who kick over the moneychangers table in the temple and told the priest to stop buying and selling in the temple.

      October 23, 2011 at 7:13 am |
  15. William Demuth

    If I had been cheated I would put a bullet in his head.

    If someone else from amongst the foolish sheep who were cheated does it, and I am placed on the jury, I would aquit them

    He is a charlatan and a deviant, and he needs an old shool education about what happens to con men.

    A message needs to be sent, dealing in debt and stealing in the name of the lord shall not be tolerated.

    Perhaps Liyans might be an inspiration. Find the rat who has wronged you, and send him to hell.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  16. Doc Vestibule

    Further proof that shamans should be considered con-men until proven otherwise.
    If he's willing to pass a collection plate, chances are he'll take the rest of your money too.
    Taking stock tips from a pastor is as foolosh as taking se.x advice from a priest.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  17. JJ

    Strike 2 "Bishop"

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

      Child did you not see my pics in tights? I drive a bently who do you think paid for all my posessions? My Church members paid, I will continue to fleece them in the name of jesus. My people are so stupid its incredible that they actually give me money.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  18. David

    The Bible contains at least 13 verses condemning usery, yet the foundation of all churches depends on it.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  19. Wes

    The pastor needed the money to pay off the boys he molested.!! I am pretty sure he got the return on his investment.

    People give money to the church because they are told if they don't they wont go to heaven. Why not give your money to the poor, homeless or the sick? The church is a failure and that's why there are so many people going hungry and have no place to sleep. If so called Christians would stop spewing out hate towards everyone and quit judgeing everyone who don't believe exactly like them the United States would be a much better place.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      Amen, sir.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Bob Thomas

      Just curios...how much money have you given to the poor sick and homeless lately?

      October 21, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • William Demuth

      Bob Thomas

      Whats your point.

      If a man steals a loaf of bread and gives a slice to a poor man, he is still a thief.

      The dreggs of the earth ALWAYS have a facade of generosity. Please inform yourself about how these thieves operate.

      Bernie Maddoff was a HUGE supporter of the arts, with the money he stole from others.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  20. Nikki

    I really do feel badly for the people who lost their money and trust in someone they trusted with their spiritual well-being for years. However, I would not just hand over $122,000/entire retirement funds to anyone just because they 'vouched' for the other person and spoke well about what he heard. I do hope they get their money back but even if they do I doubt it will be the entire amount they lost.

    October 21, 2011 at 8:37 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.