The leader of one of the nation’s best-known megachurches was accused in a civil lawsuit in Georgia of encouraging church members to invest in a scheme that promised 20% annual returns on safe investments but diverted their money to a failing company.
Bishop Eddie Long, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, and his church marketed, sponsored and hosted “Wealth Tour Live” seminars in October 2009 through which an entrepreneur and another firm recruited investors for a “Ponzi scheme,” according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in DeKalb County (Ga.) State Court.
The suit, filed on behalf of 10 church members who claim to have lost more than $1 million, contends that Mr. Long and New Birth church used their “confidential/fiduciary relationship” to “coerce” the church members into investing with Ephren Taylor Jr., the former chief executive of City Capital Corp. in Chicago. […]
Art Franklin, a spokesman for Mr. Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, said the church’s legal team wasn’t ready to comment on the suit, and referred to an earlier news release that said Mr. Long has asked Mr. Taylor “to do the right thing by quickly resolving this matter with a positive outcome.”
The suit alleges that Mr. Taylor told the investors that his companies focused on “socially conscious, safe investments” that would “guarantee results.” […]
The case is one of the highest-profile accusations to date of so-called religious affinity fraud, in which potential investors are targeted through a faith-based organization
The allegations are the latest in a string for the embattled Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia. Earlier this year, Long reached an undisclosed financial settlement with five men who accused the him of sexual coercion.
Late last month, Long reached a settlement in a lawsuit that claimed he and partners in a real estate venture defaulted on a $2 million bank loan.
Eddie Long is a key proponent of the so-called prosperity gospel —