ATLANTA (WAOK/AJC)-Bishop Eddie Long is in the midst of more legal trouble. On Wednesday, ten members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia sued the pastor, the church, three investment companies and others over an alleged scheme the parishioners say “bilked” them of $1 million.
As a result, the U.S. Secret Service has seized laptop computers from employees at the church. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp says they are investigating an investment company and its former chief executive for possible securities violations involving investments sold to Long church members, who some say lost everything.
“It is possible the scope of the investigation could expand as we obtain additional information,” Kemp said Thursday in a statement– attempting to influence people with knowledge of the alleged scheme to contact his office.
The lawsuit states that Bishop Long conspired with others to defraud them through “wealth-building” seminars and sermons by encouraging his church members to invest money with a man named Ephren Taylor, who was running the alleged scheme.
The lawsuit contends Bishop Long brought Taylor into the church for an investment seminar, even though Taylor was not licensed to sell investments or give investment advice in the state of Georgia.
The accusations are the latest in a series of problems for Bishop Long. Earlier this year, Long reached an undisclosed financial settlement with five men who accused him of sexual misconduct. And in September, Long reached a settlement in a lawsuit that claimed he and partners in a real estate venture defaulted on a $2 million bank loan.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Taylor’s company, City Capital Corp, had suffered heavy losses and in an annual filing prior to the seminar, the company’s independent accountants had doubts that the company could continue operating.
Last year, the Alabama Securities Commission issued a cease and desist order in that state against Taylor and associates for marketing unregistered securities and for not being licensed to sell in Alabama.
It’s unclear if Long knew of Taylor’s financial woes when he issued a YouTube video, last year, publicly appealing to the company to “do what’s right” as he personally urged Taylor to return the invested money.
Long stated that neither he nor New Birth benefited from the investments of his members.
“I want you to know New Birth received, nor myself, any financial blessing or gift from Ephren Taylor,” Long says in the video.
However, the lawsuit contends that Bishop Eddie Long did make money when Taylor came in with the financial investment seminars at the church.
In a written statement, earlier this year, Taylor wrote New Birth church received a percentage of product sales.
“It’s a terrible thing, especially when you suffer a loss like that from your church and your pastor,” attorney Quinton Seay, co-counsel in the suit, 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.”