Ten parishioners lost more than a million dollars after investing in a company Bishop Eddie Long endorsed, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in DeKalb County state court.
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.
The most recent suit stems from a three-day investment seminar Long held at the church in October 2009, at which church members were encouraged to invest in a company named City Capital Corporation, according to the suit. The company's then-CEO, Ephren Taylor, attended and was heralded by Long, attorney Jason Doss told the AJC. Doss, of Marietta, and attorney Quinton Seay are co-counsels in the suit.
"I am responsible for everyone I bring before you and what they say," Long said at the seminar, according to the lawsuit. "The gentleman that I am going to bring before you is an ordained minster. That gives me great pride to bring him for you."
But those that heeded Long's advice and invested with Taylor's company lost every penny, Doss said. Not only was Taylor not licensed to sell investment products, but his company was in serious financial trouble, based on its own annual reports, according to the attorneys.
"This company was failing and what he (Taylor) was trying to do was bail it out by bilking investors," Doss said Wednesday night.
Taylor is no longer with the company, Doss said.
Although it's not clear if Long previously knew of City Capital's financial woes, he publicly appealed to the company to "do what's right" and return the invested money with interest, if possible, in a video posted on YouTube. He said neither he nor his DeKalb County megachurch benefited from the investing members did with City Capital.
But both the church and Long were compensated for their roles in soliciting the investments, the lawsuit contends.
The attorneys representing the plaintiffs contend some of those that invested have lost life savings due to their involvement in the scam.
"It's a terrible thing, especially when you suffer a loss like that from your church and your pastor," Seay said late Wednesday. "A lot of them have been members at New Birth Baptist for a very long time. They were given some extremely bad advice."