The man who devised a scheme to trick more than 400 people out of $16 million was sentenced to 19 years, seven months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.
Ephren Taylor II, while CEO of City Capital Corporation, directed a nationwide Ponzi scheme that targeted church-goers, Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn’s office said. Taylor, 32, of Overland Park, Kansas, must also pay $15,590,752.81 in restitution, Horn’s office said in an emailed statement.
“Taylor’s ‘Building Wealth’ tour accomplished exactly the opposite, victimizing hundreds of investors and leaving many of them financially ruined,” Horn said. “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.”
During this tour, Taylor falsely claimed that 20 percent of profits were donated to charity, according to investigators. One of the churches on the “Building Wealth Tour” was the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia. While there, Taylor and a cohort, Wendy Connor, met potential investors to discuss possible investments. More than 80 people from Georgia lost more than $2 million because of Taylor’s scheme, Horn’s office said.
As part of the scheme, Taylor and Connor encouraged investors to use self-directed IRAs to make their investments. Many victims used their retirement savings to invest under the scheme, expecting these funds to be used to fund the investments pushed by Taylor.
But in late 2010, the scheme collapsed, and Taylor’s victims lost their investments, according to prosecutors. On Oct. 8, Taylor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Connor, 46, of Raleigh, N.C., pleaded guilty the same day to the interstate transportation of money taken by fraud. She was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,818,299.13.