It is estimated that Black churches in the United States receive as much as $3 billion in donations annually. Ephren Taylor II, the CEO of City Capitol Corporation, wanted a piece of that money and he created a popular “Building Wealth Tour” seminar and investment plan. The problem was his plan was a giant pyramid scheme that defrauded churchgoers to the tune of more than $16 million.
Taylor targeted megachurches because of their large and giving congregations. In Atlanta, he went after perhaps one of the most famous churches in the city, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Bishop Eddie Long. It is estimated that in Georgia alone he took in $2 million defrauding at least 80 people who had invested their life savings. Taylor’s plan consisted of getting people to use self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts to make investments that he controlled.
But his plan fell apart with the economic downturn of the country in 2010 and 400 victims lost their money. In October 2014, Taylor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was sentenced this week to 19 years and 7 months in federal prison and must pay more than $15 million in restitution.
An email from the acting U.S. Attorney John Horn stated, “Taylor’s ‘Building Wealth’ tour accomplished exactly the opposite, victimizing hundreds of investors and leaving many of them financially ruined. At churches across the country he touted himself as a socially conscious investor, but his investment opportunities were nothing but a Ponzi scheme designed to build his own personal wealth. This sentencing brings a measure of justice to those who remain devastated by his actions.”
His accomplice, Wendy Conner, received a sentence of five years in prison and must make restitution of more than $5 million.