29 year-old Ephren Taylor, the self-professed "youngest African American CEO of a public company", steals millions from churchgoing investors from Atlanta to Texas.
Many have heard of Bernie Madoff, the New York investment consultant who stole billions from investors in one of the largest ponzi schemes in history. Now the African American community has their own version with Ephren Taylor who apparently is also a multi-billion fraud. Taylor is accused of swindling millions from individual investors in over 40 states; gaining their trust by "preaching" his investment strategy to churchgoers across the country.
Taylor was first introduced to the mainstream by controversial mega-church leader Eddie Long at his Atlanta megachurch, New Birth Missionary Baptist. Although Reverend Long did not implicitly endorse Taylor, he gave Taylor the opportunity to propose his financial investment proposals to hundreds of New Birth followers. Taylor promised returns from 12% to 20% if investors would purchase notes to fund small businesses across the country.
According to the SEC, Taylor fraudulently sold $7 million of these notes to fund small businesses like laundromats, juice bars and gas stations. The problem is that none of these businesses actually existed. Instead, much of the money taken from initial investors was used to pay off newer investors (the essence of a ponzi scheme). The rest of the money was used to fund the extravagant lifestyle of Taylor and his wife Meshelle to include purchasing clothes, cars and jewelry (the other reality of ponzi schemes). Some of the money was even used to produce a music video starring the Taylors.
From 2008 to late 2010 Taylor ran this ponzi scheme until the funds eventually dried up. During that time Taylor became quite a celebrity, speaking at multiple churches and appearing on national TV talk shows such as "The Montel Williams Show" and "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch". He used his celebrity as an endorsement of his credibility, which apparently swayed whole congregations.
The SEC reports that more than 100 investors including members of the New Birth church bought the notes, while an additional 250 investors bought $4 million worth of "sweepstakes" machines loaded with casino-style games. Investors were told that the machines would promise returns from 72 percent to 2,400 percent per year.
As the house of cards began to crumble Ephren Taylor became less and less visible until in 2012 when he completely disappeared. Taylor was formally charged by the SEC in May 2012 and is currently a fugitive from justice. Although investors and employees of his company City Capital Corp have repeatedly tried to contact him he has not surfaced citing he is "in fear for his life".
Even when caught it is highly unlikely that investors will ever get their money back as (with most ponzi schemes) the investment money has probably been spent long ago.
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