Ephren Taylor II, a self-proclaimed Johnson County whiz kid who said he made a fortune before he turned 20 years old, was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud charges in Kansas City.
The indictment charges Taylor, now 31 and an associate at City Capital Corp., of cheating hundreds of investors out of $5 million in 2009 and 2010 during his “Building Wealth Tour.”
The son of a preacher, Taylor was the chief executive of City Capital when he pitched what authorities say were worthless investments. Among his victims, the government says, were groups of churchgoers, particularly in the South.
“During this tour, Taylor claimed to be a socially conscious investor and falsely claimed that 20 percent of the profits were donated to charity,” according to the U.S. district attorney’s office in Atlanta, which is prosecuting the case.
A federal grand jury in Georgia indicted Taylor and Wendy Connor, City Capital’s former chief operating officer, a week ago. Taylor, who lives in Overland Park, was arrested in Kansas City.
The case was investigated by the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
This is not the first federal case brought against Taylor. In a civil action two years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of running “a Ponzi scheme to swindle more than $11 million, primarily from African-American churchgoers.”
When Taylor did not offer a defense, that case ended last year with a default judgment against him of $11.8 million, which he did not pay. He is currently a defendant in one class action lawsuit and has other judgments against him.
As a teenager, the 2000 Blue Valley North High School grad made news when he and a classmate started a website that paired job-seeking teens with employers.
No one got rich from GoFerretGo.com. But Taylor claimed otherwise and built a persona upon that myth, retelling his story in three books and in interviews with reporters and TV hosts such as Donny Deutsch on CNBC.
“Very young and very rich” is how Deutsch introduced Taylor on his show in 2007 when Taylor was just 24.
Authorities say Taylor’s riches were obtained through deceit. Many victims allegedly transferred their retirement funds to what the government says were phony or money-losing investments.
At one time, one of his ventures owned a substantial amount of property south of Kansas City’s jazz district, where he said he planned to build housing. But it never happened, and the land remains largely vacant today.