Bishop Eddie Long, the televangelist and head of Atlanta's New Birth Missionary Church in Atlanta, is being named as a defendant in a new lawsuit. This time, it's alleged that the bishop coerced nine members of his church into investing in a Ponzi scheme that stole at least $1 million of their savings.
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 Ephren Taylor Jr., a "child-prodigy entrepreneur" representing City Capital Corp. to New Birth for a week-long 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.
Long, according to the lawsuit, introduced Taylor to the congregation as a minister who would base everything he said on the word of God.
Taylor, however, was not licensed to sell investments. And City Capital was insolvent, information Long and New Birth knew or should have known, according to the suit.
"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.
"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," Lillian Wells, a plaintiff in the case told CNN.
Wells has been attending New Birth for 24 years. When Long vouched for Taylor, Wells said she decided to invest her retirement savings.
She never saw a return and has since been laid off. Her house is weeks away from foreclosure, she can barely pay for her medication, and she's lost at least $122,000 in retirement savings, CNN reports.
It's unclear whether Long or New Birth profited from the scheme, or what the church's role was in the investments. Neither Long nor New Birth would comment on the lawsuit.
Taylor told the Associated Press on Monday that he's taking action and will reimburse the plaintiffs. "Don't assume that I am just another greedy businessman," Taylor said in the statement. "I am taking action to make things right."
It's something the Plaintiffs have heard before though.
According to Wells, Taylor's attorneys contacted her in the past asking her to mail some documents in order to 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.