The members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church finally have a modicum of closure after being bilked out of their life savings from a so-called financial expert. The man who swindled millions out of New Birth members in a crooked investment scheme pleaded guilty in federal court in Atlanta.
Ephren Taylor, 32, the former CEO of the now defunct City Capital Corporation, ripped off $7 million on his “Building Wealth Tour” scheme at churches across the country and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud by defrauding hundreds of victims of their retirement savings.
Taylor’s co-defendant Wendy Connor, 45, the former COO of City Capital Corporation, also pleaded guilty to “interstate transportation of money taken by fraud,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Taylor’s guilty plea brings a measure of justice for the hundreds of his victims, including those hard-working Georgians who lost their life savings to his criminal scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
Taylor traveled around the country on a “Building Wealth Tour,” where he gave wealth management seminars to church congregations, most prominently at New Birth in Lithonia, Ga. During this tour, Taylor claimed to be a socially conscious investor and falsely claimed that 20% of profits were donated to charity. While at New Birth, Taylor and Connor convinced multiple members to invest most, if not all, of their retirement savings in this scheme.
Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., has already reached a financial settlement with church members for inviting Taylor into the church and using his influence from the pulpit to convince members to invest in Taylor’s scheme.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
The investments pushed by Taylor included investing in promissory notes, where the funds invested would be used to support small businesses, such as laundries, juice bars, and gas stations. Taylor falsely represented the revenues and returns for these businesses knowing that they were not profitable. Taylor also pushed an investment in sweepstakes machines. Sweepstakes machines are computers loaded with various games that allow players to win cash prizes. Taylor published offering materials that falsely claimed the average sweepstakes machine would generate 300% investor returns. He also stated that the sweepstakes machine investments were 100% risk free. Taylor knew that the investments he was touting were not profitable and that investors were not receiving actual returns from their investments.
Over 80 individuals from Georgia lost more than $2 million because of Taylor’s scheme, the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service states.
Taylor and Conner will be sentenced on Dec. 18.