(Photo: AP Images / John Amis)
More than a dozen members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church have managed to recoup some of their losses, originally totaling nearly $1 million, in a civil suit involving Bishop Eddie Long and alleged Ponzi scheme mastermind Ephren Taylor.
Thirteen former members of Long's Lithonia, Ga., megachurch recently reached a confidential financial settlement with the Christian minister, although neither he nor Taylor have admitted to any wrongdoing.
"I somewhat blame New Birth, because when this happened, instead of really showing us love, we were kind of looked at as outcasts," J.B. Bailey, one of the 13 victims who has recouped his money, told MyFoxAtlanta.com.
Long had endorsed Taylor to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church congregants as his "friend" and "brother" during a financial seminar in October 2009. Taylor managed to convince members to invest nearly a million dollars into ventures that were essentially nonexistent.
But before Taylor had even arrived at the Georgia megachurch, someone attempted to intercede and warn Long about the nefarious history surrounding his scheduled guest.
An internal memo discovered as evidence during an investigation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church shows that an unidentified person had tried to reach Bishop Long, but instead had to leave a message – about Taylor possibly intending to "take advantage" of church members.
"Bishop Long really did not guard his flock the way he should have," said Quinton Seay, an attorney representing one of Taylor's fraud victims. "Bishop Long was given a very explicit warning. Basically, he was told exactly what was going to happen, and it materialized."
When the scandal broke, Long publicly released a video of himself pleading with Taylor to "do the right thing" and address the loss of money.
"I'm not mad at Bishop Long, just a little disappointed," said Bailey, one of the 13 whose case was redressed.
It was through church visits that the self-declared "social capitalist" targeted victims, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which filed charges against Taylor in 2012.
The SEC alleges Taylor had been "running a Ponzi scheme that targeted investors in church congregations," in filed charges that included his company City Capital Corporation and its former corporate officer, Wendy Connor. Taylor, who the SEC said raised approximately $11 million dollars between 2008 and 2010, used investors' money to pay off other investors, and cover personal expenses like his company's payroll and rent.
Ephren, in his early 30s, apparently has been in hiding and was last seen in August 2013 in Lenexa, Kan.