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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. Eric of Reseda

    Wait! Wait! Are you telling me that a Christian Evangelical leader may have wildly profited at the horrific expense of his flock?!? NO WAY! Yes, of course there are exceptions, that is, even Christian Evangelical leaders can be hishonest, but it's VERY rare. In fact, it's only happened once or twice, say, in the last 100 years of Evangelical Christiandom:

    Aimee Semple McPherson,
    Lonnie Frisbee,
    Marjoe Gortner,
    Billy James Hargis,
    Jimmy Swaggart,
    Marvin Gorman,
    Jim & Tammy Bakker,
    Peter Popoff,
    Morris Cerullo,
    Mike Warnke,
    Robert Tilton,
    W. V. Grant,
    Bob Moorehead,
    Roy Clements,
    John Paulk,
    Paul Crouch,
    Douglas Goodman,
    Kent Hovind,
    Ted Haggard,
    Paul Barnes,
    Lonnie Latham,
    Gilbert Deya,
    Richard Roberts,
    Earl Paulk,
    Coy Privette,
    Thomas Wesley Weeks, III,
    Michael Reid,
    Joe Barron,
    Todd Bentley,
    Ergun Caner,
    George Alan Rekers,
    Eddie L. Long,
    Marcus Lamb,
    Vaughn Reeves,
    Stephen Green,
    Albert Odulele.

    See? A genuine anomaly.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • El Kababa

      Eric,
      Where did you read that list? I'd love to read the book or webpage you got it from.

      October 21, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Eric of Reseda

      Hey El! Comically, if you type in Christian Evangelical Scandals, you will get page after page. I use the Wiki page because it condenses it down to main ones.

      October 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • big O

      I like the list, one more name should be on the list. Guillermo Maldonado of El Rey Jesus church in Miami,Fl.
      Big new church, airplane, ranch in Honduras. I f you have any health problems go see him he will take your money
      and then cure you.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. William Demuth

    If we actually investigated the industry MOST televangelists would go to prison.

    Yet we do NOT, because of the power of religion, and their political connections.

    Do you support an investigation into the INDUSTRY and its methods? Do you support taxing them? Do you support REQUIRING the churces to report ANY hint of abuse?

    If you do not, then you are the PROBLEM.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  3. Philojazz

    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.”

    Okay, I guess that says it all.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. Frank Cardenas

    These people have sat in the seats at New Birth and listened to Eddie Long's HATE speech towards gay and lesbians and then were confronted with what the young men accused him of and know of Eddie's out of court settlement and now they want to complain about losing money? They need to be concerned about losing their souls! God don't shine His Light on those who hate!

    October 21, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  5. Matt

    The sad part is after losing $122,000, she is STILL GIVING THEM MONEY. Seriously, how can anyone still attend this "church"?

    October 21, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  6. dude

    just another gansta

    October 21, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  7. dude

    who takes investment advice form a cult leader??

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

    Televangelism: Money for nothing and chicks are free.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • William Demuth

      Little boys are free

      October 21, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  9. jeff

    sorry it took me so long to post. i was writing out checks to benny hinn, jimmy swaggert, jim baker, pat robertson...

    October 21, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  10. Jared

    These guys always need money, more and more money. Religion is a money pit scam...and the flock is a bunch of suckers

    October 21, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • cor

      Not all churches are like that. Churches, like any organization (Rotary, Kiwanis, Elk's whatever) require money just to operate. Many organizations require "dues" so why should a church be any different? There are building expenses, insurance, office staff, building maintenance workers and everything else that goes along with it. In a "proper" church, the funds are typically provided by members of of the church and the pastors should never even be anywhere near the money. Members are people who have made the commitment to provide for the church. The money is handled and audited by several different people and the church provides open statements of giving and where the money is being spent. Unfortunately there are a lot of scam artists out there posing as "real churches" If you are in a church where they try to guilt-trip you into giving money or even worse "invest"... LEAVE NOW! If a pastor is driving a Mercedes and living in a mansion, it's time to get out of that church! Before you atheists flame me with "you shouldn't go to church anyway" I'll just say "Yeah, I get it... you don't believe, "believers are morons", "we're all sheep", blah blah blah blah blah etc etc etc... I've already read this a thousand times in these forums" I'm not here to debate the whole thing. I'm just writing this so that the people who DO go to church can identify warning signs of scam churches.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  11. David M

    This is the result of getting away from Biblical principles. Too many 'health and wealth' preachers out there who are fat and happy at the expense of those whom they have tricked. As a Christian, I find them disgusting and they deserve every bit of criticism and legal problems that come their way.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Sarah

      Hear, hear!

      October 21, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  12. Sheesh

    Nothing more fun than fleecing the flock. The Dollar is Lord.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  13. cat woman

    Wow they stood behind him when he was screwing the boys. Now that they are the ones that got screwed seems they aren't liking his screwing anymore! Come on people stand behind your pastor...... He isn't finshed screwing yet.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Perryboy

      Hahaha!!! That's funny!

      October 21, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  14. Alfonzo Muchanzo

    Another false teacher and it was painfully obvious even before any of this stuff went down. 99% of televangelists are false, money hungry, hypocritical, heretics. As the last days approach many will be swayed away from false teachings, and they are ever so rampant in today's world. It's a shame. Rely on Jesus and His Word, not on the false teachings of a prosperity teacher.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  15. Buzz Aldrin

    How did he force you to do anything you dopes?

    You have ponzi scheme ministers
    Priests banging little children
    Crazies predicting the end of the world

    Don't you think it's about time to give up on organized religion?

    There is no god. Just live a good moral life. You don't need some 2000 year old fairy tale or an imaginary buddy in the sky to tell you to do that do you?

    October 21, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      It's the people taking advantage and preaching false gospels that are to blame, not Christianity. It's pretty ignorant and naive to think that this is the result of religion, it's actually the result of a selfish man.

      Using your logic, school teachers have also done terrible things to children, should we rid ourselves of education?

      October 21, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • One7777777

      What a shame that you don't recognize you have a divine Creator. You'd rather believe evil men who tell you that you came from apes.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • G D

      Sadly greed begets greed. God speaks for God. Not this man. I understand why you would confuse the two and reject both. Religion has done more damage to this world than all other forces of evil and destruction. God is not religion. Also recall that when Jesus came, his harshest criticism was reserved for the church of the day. That having been said, God's word can still be trusted. God is love, God is not greed. God is also just and will judge this man and all others who claim to speak for him and do so wrongly or for their own gain.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Philojazz

      Excellent post, Buzz Aldrin. Thanks for saving me the trouble!

      October 21, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Nonimus

      @One7777777,
      The issue at hand is whether or not to trust a preacher about money issues. Why do you bring up Evolution?

      The scientific Theory of Evolution has 150+ years of solid scientific research and evidence backing it up. That in no way compares to the charlatans scamming money off these gullible church members.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  16. Hitinklela Rufulla Senoria Labula Jones

    Would someone pass the collection plate? I would like to contribute!

    October 21, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  17. ja

    with 100,000 plus who need the investment advice of some jack leg preacher, lots of the so called ministers living large are sure signs of mess

    October 21, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  18. pastmorm

    It's SO hard to feel sorry for the people that fall for televangelists or any religious leader for that matter. Why would you put your faith in a man or woman just because they say that god tells you to? Seriously? Can't anyone think for themselves. What exactly has religion done for ANYONE????

    October 21, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • alan

      If people could think for themselvs and take control of their own life, they wouldn't need religion!

      October 21, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • One7777777

      Jesus came to tell you to put your trust and faith in God's Words – NOT in man. Upon His crucifixion, all were given direct access to God, via Jesus and the Holy Ghost – no longer via a "priest" or "preacher". Men who deceive are leading believers away from that Truth.

      P.S. it's God with a captial "G".

      October 21, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  19. joe

    The highly religious are about one step ahead of special needs children. And because the law deems them competent to contract, consequently they are some of the easiest marks on the planet for scam artists.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • pastmorm

      You hit it on the head Joe!

      October 21, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  20. Jake

    I have zero sympathy – sero – for people that are stupid and weak enough to take televangilists seriously, much less let televangelists into their personal and financial lives.

    October 21, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Jake

      *zero, I mean.

      October 21, 2011 at 9:51 am |
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