DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Bishop Eddie Long and his mega church are at the center of another lawsuit involving an investment sponsored by the church.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer spent hours reading pages of documents in which members said an investment encouraged by the church duped them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ten current and former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are suing the church and Bishop Eddie Long.
The suit claims members lost money in an investment pitched to church members.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they considered Long and his church to be trustworthy, and they said the events held by the defendants were widely publicized and marketed to make sure they were well attended by church members.
Now, with more than $1 million lost, those members are holding Long and the church responsible.
“Many of us with our wealth and with our money, we’re foolish,” said Ephren Taylor on video, while making his pitch to thousands of church members, asking them to invest with his companies.
He presented them as extremely successful and profitable, in some cases assuring church members the investments were safe, conservative, and that they would provide guaranteed income, according to the lawsuit. But that isn’t what happened.
The 10 plaintiffs said they invested more than $1 million with Taylor and his companies, and the investment went bust. Company stock dropped to a penny on the share.
According to the lawsuit, Taylor and his companies were not licensed to sell investments or render investment advice in Georgia. The lawsuit also alleges the entire Wealth Tour Live event was “nothing more than a fraudulent scheme designed to perpetuate an ongoing Ponzi scheme.”
The plaintiffs contend that Long used his position of power and authority to coerce them and other church members to trust the defendants, Taylor and his companies.
According to the lawsuit, Long frequently provided faith-based advice about economic prosperity and wealth building. The lawsuit also said the church has sponsored seminars at which financial and investment services have been endorsed and recommended.
Long posted a video on YouTube in February and appealed to Taylor to return the money that was invested, but he still spoke highly of him.
“Please do what’s right. You’re a great fellow, a great man and you do great things. Let’s settle this so these families can move on,” Long said in the video.
The lawsuit accused Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of negligence, and conspiring to defraud the church members who invested. The suit seeks to recoup their losses and asks for punitive damages, attorney’s fees and expenses, but does not specify a dollar amount.
A spokesman for Long and New Birth did not return Channel 2’s calls for comment.