Two lawsuits filed this month claim the 29-year-old Ephren Taylor was a con artist who targeted worshippers throughout at least five states on the East Coast since 2004, swindling tens of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme.“He knew if he went to a Christian African-American and said, `I can take your hard-earned investment money, and you’re going to earn more money, but more importantly you’re going to do good for your church and community,’ that they would fall for it hook line and sinker,” said Cathy Lerman, an attorney who sued Taylor in North Carolina.The allegations have tarnished Taylor, who resigned last year after becoming the chief executive of the holding company City Capital. Worshippers would often be asked to invest in real estate and businesses tied to the holding company.
Taylor said he planned to use his own money to help those who feel “negatively impacted.” He criticized his detractors and compared himself to other financial heavyweights who were “crucified” amid the economic downturn.
Lillian Wells said she lost $122,000. “Everyone was tired of losing money in the stock market, and this was an opportunity for a guaranteed return on the money.” She is among 10 New Birth Missionary Baptist Church members suing Taylor, Bishop Eddie Long and the church. It claims Long abused his spiritual authority and “coerced” his parishioners into investing at least $1 million in Taylor’s fund in late 2009.
After he was tapped in 2006 as the chief executive of City Capital, he was quick to boast in media interviews that the move made him the youngest black leader of a publicly traded company in the U.S. He also wrote books, spoke at Democratic National Convention in 2008, as well as appearing with celebrities and athletes on TV.
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