Man who scammed New Birth church investors out of millions was arrested

Atlanta Daily World/June 18, 2014

By Terry Shropshire

Ephren Taylor, the Kansas City man accused of scamming New Birth Missionary Baptist Church members out of millions of dollars of their retirement savings, has been arrested on a federal indictment charges.

In total, Taylor, the former chief executive officer of City Capital Corp. of Overland Park, Kan.,  allegedly duped mostly black churchgoers nationwide of more than $5 million.

Investigators with the U.S. Secret Service and the IRS accuse Taylor and co-conspirator Wendy Conner, the former COO of City Capital Corp., of swindling 80 investors in Georgia, including members of New Birth in Lithonia, out of at least $2 million during Taylor’s “Building Wealth Tour,” which allegedly targeted church congregations from at least April 2009 through October 2010.

New Birth and Bishop Eddie Long wasn’t the only mega church impacted. Members of  Joel Osteen’s Houston-based Lakewood Church also invested in the scheme when they heard about it.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Taylor of running an $11 million Ponzi scheme, using investors’ money to pay off early investors and to hide investment losses.

Taylor turned himself in to federal authorites in Kansas City and is facing charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and money laundering.

“Mr. Taylor came into our community, promising hard-working citizens a way to make their retirement money go farther,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “The investments he pitched proved to be worthless, along with his promises.”

Taylor, who called himself a “socially conscious investor” when he pitched his investment scheme before New Birth members, surrendered to federal agents and prosecutors in Kansas City, pleading not guilty in his initial court appearance. His next court appearance will be in Atlanta on June 27.

In a 2012 complaint, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Taylor of running an $11 million Ponzi scheme mainly targeting African-American investors.

New Birth, led by embattled pastor Bishop Eddie Long who came to a secret financial settlement in a sensationalized gay sex scandal just a year earlier, also came to a confidential financial settlement with a dozen former members who said Long encouraged them to invest money with Taylor despite several warnings that the investor was running a capital deficit. The members said they lost more than $1 million dollars.

“It has always been our prayer for a resolution to this matter in which many lost their investments,” New Birth said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to anyone who suffered losses, and we pray for healing.”

Prosecutors said many victims transferred retirement savings to self-directed IRAs. Taylor had clients use specific trust companies, one in Ohio and another in New Mexico. However, Taylor actually controlled their IRA funds, prosecutors said. Taylor allegedly used the money to pay salaries and commissions, and personal expenses, and to pay earlier investors, prosecutors said.

The victims were also instructed that their funds were being used to invest in laundries, juice bars, gas stations and other small businesses, and in real estate, and that the promissory notes used would be extremely profitable. When the notes were due, the investors were encouraged to get new notes, which meant a delay in delivering proceeds on the notes.

“This case demonstrates the wide-reaching effects of fraudulent investment schemes, its impact on innocent victims, our northern Georgia communities, and the importance of cooperation among our law enforcement partners to suppress this type of criminal activity,” said Reginald Moore, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service Atlanta Field Office.

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