UPDATE to this story: Taylor has been found in Kansas.
After the Securities and Exchange Commission went to court to shut down this scheme, Taylor disappeared and Federal authorities hadn’t been able to find him. Taylor and his wife were recently located in Lenexa, Kansas living under falsified identities.
They were caught by inconsistencies in their stories and clues that led associates to find out they were one the lam.
Originally posted on May 9, 2013
Ephren Taylor Accused of $11 Million Christian Ponzi Scheme by SEC
We’re going to show you how to get wealth and use it for the building of his kingdom,” Taylor shouted to the congregation one morning in 2009. It was all part of what he called his “Building Wealth Tour,” which crisscrossed the country touting his investments and financial advice.
But according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, what Taylor was actually peddling was a giant Ponzi scheme, one aimed to “swindle over $11 million, primarily from African-American churchgoers,” that reached into churches nationwide, from Long’s megachurch in Atlanta to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church congregation in Houston.
But Taylor has disappeared, hiding out from lawsuits, federal charges and angry, mostly African-American, investors in at least 40 states.
The Dorios first met Talylor in Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, and gave Taylor $1.3 million, their life savings and her mother’s retirement. And for about a year, they say it seemed like a good deal. At the beginning, Taylor was sending them monthly checks for $11,000.
But ultimately, they discovered that many of the businesses they thought they were investing in never even existed. Their lawyer Cathy Lerman said hundreds of investors have told her the same story.
While the Dorios said they are still devout Christians, they have left Lakewood Church, the house of famous televangelist Joel Osteen, who, like many other pastors who let Taylor speak at their churches, preaches what’s known as the “prosperity” gospel.
Anita Dorio acknowledged that the church was careful not to explicitly endorse Taylor. “Before the seminar began– a staff member did make the announcement, ‘we’re not endorsing this person. We’re not telling’ you to invest with him. We’re just here to listen to what he has to say.'”
Lakewood Church told ABC News they opened their doors to Taylor to speak on the subject of “Biblical financial principals,” but “when he began to promote his services as a financial advisor,” he “was stopped from doing so.”
Tip: @RickAlanRoss on Twitter
What’s more trustworthy than hearing advice through your church? Sure, the church didn’t officially endorse it, but they tacitly did by allowing Taylor in. Any investment plan should be double checked. But, if you are getting advice to invest your ENTIRE life savings, wow. Critical thinking was needed here and everywhere that happens. It’s just curious that not only did Taylor take advantage of people in general, his business was clothed in the trust of the church institution and decorated with Bible passages.
A ponzi scheme is where money from one investor is paid to keep the others happy. Works for a while but it ultimately doomed to fail. See more on Ponzi schemes here and how to spot them.