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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. Jerry Wheeler

    Let's get this straight before a lot of people get their nose out of joint! The problem is not with Christ – it is with SOME of his followers! They are a disgrace to Christianity. Let us not use a broad brush. Enough said!

    December 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  2. Michael

    Oh, those christians !!

    December 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Tom

      That isn't true. The vast majority of churches in this country have under 100 people in attendance on Sunday. We had 35 on Sunday and can barely pay our bills to keep the doors open, and our pastor is paid next to nothing. The pastors of these huge churches get swept up in money, possessions and power and make the rest of us look like chumps. Their example is not what Jesus wants for us. Jerry Wheeler (previous post) was right. This has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity. It has everything to do with the greed of mankind even in huge churches.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  3. cattleprodsodomy

    yet another reason clearly demonstrated as to why church's should not enjoy a tax exempt status.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  4. Lee Cherry

    Another false church. "If the Lord dont build the church, how can it stand?" Its quite obvious who the spiritual leader is. Its not Eddie Long only but Satan himself, leading the people to perdition.

    December 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  5. Rocky Termanini

    This is is just a terrorist as the Al-quaeda ones, he injected poison in the minds of his congregation...

    December 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Good Bye Your The Devil Eddie!!

    Thank you Jesus for bringing this Devil to justice!!! The Lord God has provided our sight and has removed this DEVIL from the church!!!
    Thank you Jesus!!!

    December 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Denverdriver

      "Wells said she still attends and gives money to New Birth." Amazing! But I guess there will always be a supply of gullible fools.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Shepherd

      He'll be back and you'll forgive him after he has a lengthy conversation with god. Because after all he's only human, a sinner, and your shared belief relieves him of accountability for his actions...right?

      December 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  7. Bob

    It shouldn't be the legal system's responsibly to protect people from their own stupidity.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • bob

      you must work on wall street!

      December 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      No but it is the legal system's responsibility to prosecute people who run ponzi schemes which are illegal and a form of fraud/theft. Would you say the same thing about those who invested in Bernie Madoff? Or are you just against this woman because you are bigoted against religious people?

      December 5, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  8. PaulC

    Unfortunately, too often, organized religion is all about money with a constant plea to wheedle money from you with no accountability. The "Pastor" wears diamonds, $3,000 suits, luxury cars, etc. while people donate their social security check.
    Truly sad.....

    December 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • martini

      Thank you! The voice of reason.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Shepherd

      And yet the sheepish flock continues to buy-in to the hypocrisy that is religion. It's not good enough for you to have faith in a god, you must also demonstrate your faith with cash donations...because god needs money.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Parev

      Mat 7:15, 20-23 (NIV) "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves... Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them'"

      December 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Simpleman

      Couldn't agree more!!!!! $500,000 Bentley and members struggle to find transportation to bring their "offers" AMAZING

      December 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  9. Jason

    Is his wife fault.... She is really cold with him. So he did what he did

    December 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • martini

      Oh stop!

      December 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  10. ComeOnMan9

    You got to feel sorry for people this stupid or vulnerable. There will always be an Eddie Long among us because we love the sweet music they hypnotize with. Eddie baby you playing with the wrong one in this game. The Karma will be ever so messy.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  11. Krepuskulo

    A gay man, always will be a gay man!

    December 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  12. peoplearecrazy

    "Divine Spirits, we ask you: free us from thought, free us from responsibility"

    December 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  13. michael

    just avoid all churches. None of these so-called priests, bishops, cardinals ever spoke to or with GOD.
    They are lazy scam-artist who want personal wealth without working a decent job.
    GOD tells me daily, that he never spoke to any of them and refuses to do so.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  14. TheXDude

    Sheeple make me laugh... If I didn't have any morals or ethics, I too would take these morons for every penny they have. They should have a license to breed.

    But then again... if we got rid of all these idiots, all the rocket scientists and brain surgeons would be making fun of us.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Blasphemy

      That is kind of what I was thinking LOL

      December 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  15. Allah

    U idiots that believe in all this religious garbage get what god wants for U!!! so if U lose U'r life savings – god meant it to happen. god needs to gets PAID!

    December 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • SSampson

      For the one milisecond it takes.... could people PLEASE type whole words?? – This 'U' vs 'you' thing really annoys me – these are comments for people to read in a public forum – not some texting thing....
      Typos are OK – everyone makes them – but .....

      December 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • IBFree

      Yo SSampson, chill TF out. Quit telling people what to do and how to write. If it annoys you, go someplace else.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • bob

      @Ssampson – theres always suicide bro. you choose to keep this going by not killing yourself.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • sincamisa

      Short-sighted are thefolks who put all preachers in one pot because a few are bad. We can do that with all walks of life...teachers, cops, doctors, lawyers and scientists. Is everybody a no good scoundrel then? I prefer to, and get a better results If give people the benefit of the doubt. It works for me.My life is way richer for it.

      December 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  16. Sean M

    To all you proud atheists: it is called free will. God encourages and wants us to follow his commands and example (Jesus) of righteousness, integrity, compassion, humilty, charity, and love. This is what Jesus represents. Or we can choose a more self-righteous, selfish, arrogant, vulgar, 'its all about me' path.

    If you are too selfish to even consider the possibility of a greater power than us that is righteous, honest, forgiving, loving, and yes, all powerful.....then you will have an eternity to think about it....but it won't be pleasant. Im not judging...I took the "dark and selfish" path for many years...now I choose otherwise...God Bless you.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Allah

      U have zero knowledge about anything 'christian' – U R a typical christian stooge 'witnessing' U'r mindless dribble. Go stuff U'r head in an oven and meet U'r god NOW – why wait if its all that??? put up or shut up!

      December 4, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Really ?

      Organized religion is Dark and Selfish.

      December 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Lee A

      Difference between being arrogant and selfish and sensible. if i reach the pearly gates and im told i live my life right, well , and was a good person. but I cannot come in because i didn't name him the right god, or name one at all, so be it

      December 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Sarah

      To Sean M.... You realize that people like you are why people like me refuse religion? You claim love and forgiveness but the tone of your post is full of judgement and blame. I used to be highly involved but left the church because of an overwhelming sense of being unloved. I have children and I don't care what they do with their lives, I could never sentence them to an eternity in hell. Don't be fooled, this "loving, forgiving" god of yours is actually so full of unforgiveness,bitterness, self-righteousness, hate, and anger that more people have died in his name through history than for any other reason.

      December 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  17. syrakoose

    Religious people are way too easy to bilk – they are basically dummies that don't utilize critical thinking at all. If they did, they wouldn't be religious to begin with.

    December 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  18. Darf Farkle

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

    When asked if she trusted Long, she chuckled and sighed. "I guess I'm just an idiot."

    December 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  19. scutt farkas

    He's a preacher wearing a giant diamond studded ring and a Starfleet uniform. If only there had been some clues that this was not a good place to sink your life savings...

    December 4, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • bostonBC

      Thanks, I laughed harder at that than anything this year.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Right2know

      Scutt farkas, this is the best post of all the comments. Only thing missing is the lovely curly rug on his head. Oh Yeah!!!

      December 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  20. scutt farkas

    Why would you give your life savings to a guy wearing a Starfleet uniform?

    December 4, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Scott Alexander

      Now THAT'S funny!

      December 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
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