ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has uncovered new allegations against megachurch pastor Eddie Long.
Court records show Long was warned about self-described "social capitalist" Ephren Taylor more than a week before Long's parishioners were scammed out of more than a million dollars.
"I thought we were
betrayed. It really hurts even more now," said Lillian Wells, who invested $122,000 with Taylor.
She said Taylor issued a promissory note saying he was investing her money in real estate, and guaranteed a 20 percent return.
"That was my everything, and that's it, it's gone," Wells told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, adding she always thought it was suspicious that Long didn't lose any money with Taylor.
Long never invested despite urging his congregation to do so.
"Put your hands together and receive my friend, my brother, the great Ephren Taylor," Long preached to his congregants at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in October 2009. He then embraced Taylor, who took the stage and pitched his investments.
Wells is one of a dozen church members now suing Taylor and his companies, Bishop Long, and the church, in hopes of recovering that money.
During the discovery process, the church handed over an internal memo dated nearly two weeks prior to Taylor's New Birth seminars.
An unidentified caller told Long's assistant that he "did not want the church to be taken advantage
He warned of Taylor's $3 million capital deficit, and that Taylor
"will issue promissory notes to the congregation if allowed that gives him legal authorization to do what he wants and there will be no return on investment."
"To hear that they got a memo that says this guy you're bringing here is a crook, I think that was ridiculous," said Wells. "I really think that if you know something, either you should cancel, you shouldn't bring the person there."
"That's just evidence that's called a smoking gun," said attorney Jason Doss, who represents the church members.
Doss said Long had a duty to pass along that warning.
"He has to put his church members' interests before his own," said Doss. "He was obligated under the law to tell everybody about it, and obviously he didn't."
In 2011, Long recorded a YouTube video, referring to Taylor as a
"great man," and urging him to repay the congregants' money.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has since charged Taylor with running a Ponzi scheme, alleging he bilked hundreds of investors nationwide out of more than $11 million.
Wells sacrificed and saved for 30 years. She's retired, but has to continue working. She nearly lost her home to foreclosure, and said she would not have trusted Taylor with her whole life savings if the Bishop she trusted hadn't vouched for him.
"Did you get any kickbacks from it?" Wells asked rhetorically. "Or did you just really sit back and allow your people to be taken? A shepherd doesn't do that to their sheep."
In a statement, a spokesman said the church remains hopeful
Taylor and his companies will restore the funds that were taken. The statement also said the church will continue to cooperate as the case proceeds. It did not mention the internal memo warning Long about Taylor.