Businessman's Self-Help Mega-Church Tour Raises Suspicions

Part 1: Federal officials claim Ephren Taylor targeted churchgoers with his "Building Wealth Tour."
7:27 | 06/18/14

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Transcript for Businessman's Self-Help Mega-Church Tour Raises Suspicions
Good evening. Just hours ago ae culmination to a saga that crosses piety and prosperity. The son of a pastor who told parishioners at some of America's most prominent mega churches that he could make them rich and please god in the process. They believed, and they gave him millions. Late today two years after "Nightline" started investigating, an arrest. Here's ABC's Steve. Reporter: The pastor was Eddie long. Good morning. Reporter: At the time one of the most powerful black preachers in America. Your life is about to change. Reporter: Six years ago he introduced his mega church to this man. Put your hands together to receive my friend, my brother, the great ephron Taylor. Reporter: Life did change. Ephron Taylor was a self-proclaimed millionaire only in his 20s and a preacher's son who spoke the language of the church. To these families he was a financial whiz kid. We're going to show you how to get wealth and use it for the building of his kingdom. ? Reporter: It was all part of what he called his wealth tour. Sermons about self-improvement and financial pitching later in private. Security officials now say these families were victims of a Ponzi scheme that reached into churches across the country from Eddie long's in Atlanta to Joel olsteen's. He preached self-improvement and shared stories of his success as a young black man on shows like "Montel Williams." I created my own internet company and made three-quarters of a million yon dollars on itunes. Reporter: Even here on ABC. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Probably a minister in somebody's congregation. Reporter: When he spoke to church Goers, his words resonated. You are here, and god has -- He sounded like a godly person to you? He did. He quoted scriptures. Reporter: Lillian said she met privately÷[÷wwúbñiñcoyvwji E÷Ñs Your your tirmt, and it's gone? It's gone. You're blessed, positives perrous. Reporter: In Houston, Texas, at the mega church of pastor Joel olsteen the flock was introduced to Taylor when according to the church he was invited to speak to a small classroom group about biblical financial principles. That was where the kiosk came out of? Reporter: Barry and Anita were there and later invested $1.3 million, their life savings and her mother's retirement. They thought they were investing in an inner city laundromat, a juice bar, a gas station. Were you spending money on things that existed or that were imaginary? Some existed. Some didn't. Reporter: Attorney Cathy says hundreds of investors told her the same story. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me I bought it only once. Reporter: One thing Taylor was apparently investing in is his wife Michelle's music career. In 2009 Taylor credits himself as executive producer and hot male model. We tell him to stick to his day job, but we're not sure what that is. Maybe you know this one. ? I'm sexy ? ? pay attention ? Reporter: The government says Taylor paid for the studio time for his wife's music career with the money that came pouring in, and there he is again making a cameo. All together now. Snoets I'm about the billionaire and I don't care and I don't care and I don't care ? Reporter: The complete version is available on itunes. In August of 2011 we started looking for Taylor. First at the headquarters he listed for his business. The address led to a post office box inside this mail store. Lisa Conway worked for Taylor in 2010. She saw yet another investment his company was pitching. I would see things that weren't -- Like what? I had caught them trying to manipulate paperwork. It sounds like you don't believe any of this stuff existed? Because I know so much. We had folks -- Reporter: Soon she said panicked families were banging down the doors of this office where she and Taylor worked. There's got to be fear on his part that this is all coming down? Yeah. Yes. You could see him sweat. How many of you want to get paid? Raise your hand and give praise if you want to get paid. Reporter: Over here Lillian wells would like to get paid, but she says that even after asking the church for help, she collected nothing. What is the first thing the bishop said to you? Well, he came in, and he said basically church ain't got no money. Reporter: Lillian no longer attends bishop long's church. She says she was forced to file bankruptcy September 2012. My name is -- Reporter: From minister yid long, he claimed that he and his church did nothing wrong. In 2011 long released this video pleading with Taylor to return the money. Please, do what's right. Reporter: Even people who have known Taylor since the day back when he was just starting out say they don't know where he or most of the money has gone. We were young and ambitious guys, and I liked that about him. Reporter: Christopher says he met Taylor when they were both 19 and they briefly sold vending machines together. He claims they even invested $26,000 of his own money with Taylor, but what bothers Christopher most is he convinced his own father to give Taylor $75,000. He says neither of them got more than a fraction back. It cost me a big lesson, but I'm not going to get it back. Smashing in his face really isn't going to help me. Reporter: In may of 2012 we heard from an attorney representing Taylor who said Taylor is not in hiding and has stayed out of the polt because of concerns for his safety. He said Taylor unekwifically denies that he looted investor proceeds to fund an extravagant lifestyle. Then "Nightline" got a tip. Someone had located ephron Taylor and his bride. We went on the hunt. Go, go, go, go. Reporter: When we come back --

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