Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long is facing a suit from former parishioners who say they lost more than $1 million after he encouraged them to invest in a company that was operating an alleged Ponzi scheme.
A dozen former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., contend Long’s assistant had been warned that businessman Ephren W. Taylor was running a $3 million capital deficit, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
After Long introduced the businessman as his friend, the former New Birth members lost their money investing with the self-described social capitalist.
“If Bishop Eddie Long hadn’t endorsed this they wouldn’t have invested,” Jason Doss, attorney for the former members, told the Journal-Constitution.
Long’s church has urged Taylor to repay investors with interest.
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Taylor in 2012 with running a Ponzi scheme, and a civil case against him is pending. SEC officials said he promised to use investments for charity and to help economically challenged areas but instead diverted the funds from members of churches to pay other investors and finance business and personal expenses.
“He preyed upon investors’ faith and their desire to help others, convincing them that they could earn healthy returns while also helping their communities,” said David Woodcock, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office in Texas.