When you are accused of ripping off the church, you’re going to get some ugly publicity. Ephren Taylor was once respected as a young financial genius, appearing in national media for his celebrated brilliance in all matters financial. But he is now being caste in a shadow of extreme shame, after being accused of using his relationship with the church of Bishop Eddie Long to convince the people in the church to invest in what the SEC is alleging was nothing more than a Ponzi Scheme.
Members of the congregation for the New Birth Baptist Church in Atlanta are outraged over the allegations, upset with both Bishop Long and Taylor for allegedly tricking them into making bad investments. He even is accused of using the word of God to convince people to give him their money.
“Everything he says is based on the word of God,” Long said.
According to ABC News, Taylor told the people of the church that they would be able to use their newfound wealth to build God’s kingdom, when prosecutors are saying that he was building a kingdom that wasn’t real.
“We’re going to show you how to get wealth and use it for the building of his kingdom,” Taylor told the people of the church. This was part of his “Building Wealth Tour,” where he went around the country having meetings with potential investors. New Birth wasn’t the only church where Taylor spoke. He also stopped by the church of Joel Osteen, called Lakewood, located in Texas.
The SEC is alleging that Taylor ran a Ponzi scheme that “swindled over $11 million, primarily from African-American churchgoers.”
The 31-year old Taylor was told by the SEC to repay $14 million to investors, plus fees. The former teenage millionaire is fighting for his freedom and financial future after the massive judgement and is working to avoid any further penalties from federal regulators.
During a 2007 interview, Taylor bragged that his net worth was “$20 million on a bad day.” For Taylor, this appears to be a very bad day.
One woman, Lillian Wells, told ABC News that Taylor often quoted scriptures during investor meetings. She was convinced to give her life savings to Taylor for a real estate venture. She says that when she tried to get her money back, Taylor was nowhere to be found.
“I couldn’t get a hold of anybody,” Wells said. “You just can’t get them. That’s it. You just couldn’t get anybody.”
Wells eventually filed bankruptcy.
Another woman, Lisa Conway, once worked for Taylor. She says that she wanted to believe that he was legitimate, but that the situation seemed to keep falling apart as she asked more questions about what she was doing for Taylor.
“I wanted to believe the answers were legit when we had the meetings,” she said. But “I would see things that weren’t appropriate.”
Advice? Don’t ever put all of your money into one investment. Secondly, remember that just because someone quotes the bible, that doesn’t mean he is a true man of God. Have an expert take a look before giving away your money.