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HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Bishop Eddie Long is one of several defendants named in a civil suit where 10 parishioners said they lost more than a million dollars after investing in a company Long endorsed, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Atlanta.
The lawsuit is based on a 2009 seminar the plaintiffs attended at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. Long, the senior pastor at New Birth, also heads the church's satellite location in Huntersville.
Long encouraged church members to invest in City Capital Corporation, run by CEO Ephren Taylor, a North Carolina resident, the lawsuit alleges. According to the 37 page document, Long introduced Taylor as a person they could trust.
"I am responsible for everyone I bring before you and what they say," the lawsuit quotes Long as saying. "The gentleman that I am going to bring before you is an ordained minister. That gives me great pride to bring him for you," it adds.
The lawsuit claims Taylor and his companies, City Capital Corporation and Raleigh-based Clean Sweep Holdings Group, were not licensed to sell investments or give investment advice in the state of Georgia. "The investments that were sold to Plaintiffs and all other investors were not registered in the State of Georgia as required by law," the document reads.
It also says Taylor's companies were already in serious financial trouble citing the companies' annual reports. "This company was failing and what [Taylor] was trying to do was bail it out by bilking investors," plaintiffs co-counsel Jason Doss told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution Wednesday night.
What remains unclear is if Long knew of the financial woes before the seminar. "Defendants Long and New Birth knew or should have known that the programs Defendants Taylor and City Capital would present and offer were nothing more than elaborate investment fraud schemes which would result in the loss of Plaintiff's money," the lawsuit says.
In a video posted on YouTube, Long implied he learned of the investments going sour after the seminar and made a public plea to the company to return investors' money.
"I'm asking you to join with me in making an appeal to Ephren Taylor and City Capital that they would return, as soon as possible, the funds and -- with interest preferably -- to those who have invested in good faith, invested because of their love of God, and invested because of their love of family," Long said during the nearly 3 minute video.
In the video, he also denied that neither he nor the church received any benefits for hosting the seminar.
The suit is the latest in a recent string of legal troubles for Long, a graduate of North Mecklenburg High School. Last year, Long reached an undisclosed financial settlement with five men, including one from Charlotte, who accused the pastor of sexual coercion.