Life is sometimes about timing. Today is the day to tell my story. A story I have been threatened not to tell, a story I have debated a thousand times writing, a story that will haunt me until the day I die. Making the decision to put it out there has been a difficult one.
When I made the decision to walk away from my online divorce company and do something different, I had no idea the nightmare that I was walking in to.
Words cannot convey the pain, the horror, and the disgust I went through as a result of the decision I made. Upon reflection I cannot say that I would have done it differently. Sometimes we need to go through hell to learn to appreciate the good.
For three years, in fact, it is three years today that it all came to an end. The nightmare would not end but the actual work would finally come to an abrupt end.
It all started in January, 2011 when I was contracted anonymously through a third party freelance web site. I was contacted and asked if I could handle negotiating refunds to 500 people. It sounded simple enough so I agreed to the independent contract which would start immediately.
I remember that day vividly, it was a Saturday afternoon and I would need to sign the contract and get my things ready to begin the following Monday. I was happy to have the contract and everything seemed legitimate.
The following Monday I refer to as my black Monday, everything changed. As I began receiving the files and information, I quickly realized that this easy refund of 500 people was going to be a nightmare. At this point, I really did not have a choice; it was either breach the contract or move forward and do my job.
The more information I received the more I realized that I had just walked into a lion’s den. Even then, I did not know just how bad it was going to be.
I did a Google search on who this mystery person was and found out that he was none other than Ephren Taylor, youngest African American CEO of a public company. I watched some videos and believed at the time that he was a good guy who had some bad luck.
That first week I started reaching out to the claimants, one by one. This was not a group of people who just had a simple misunderstanding and were entitled to a straight refund. There were four classes of claimants. This was not going to be an easy job. These people were angry. Not only did some lose their entire life savings, some took out personal loans to buy “sweepstakes machines.”
I will be honest; I had no idea what a Sweepstakes machine was. I did as much research as I could but the amount of information and demands were being thrown at me so fast and so hard I barely had time to breathe.
The first week alone I probably worked 100 hours and the more I worked the more confused I became. It was the single biggest mess I had ever seen and I questioned myself and my ability to handle it.
In the beginning we were dealing with a settlement where claimants would receive pennies on each dollar they invested, if they were lucky. This was not going to be an easy sell.
I had to get each and every claimant into a Tolling Agreement. This is a document where the claimants would give up their right to sue or even speak about how they lost their money.
Sure, in my heart I knew it was wrong but Ephren knew how to sell it to me. I quickly realized that it was the only hope these people had to recover anything even though the chances would be slim this would ever happen.
The more information I collected, both from Ephren and each claimant I spoke to, the more I realized I needed to start connecting dots. Things did not make sense and I knew for my own peace of mind, I needed to figure it all out.
Each person I spoke to would share their story. There were many nights when I finished talking to the claimants I would sit and cry for them. I listened to every word and felt every ounce of pain they felt.
Each day I learned more and more things that were disturbing. It did not take long before I started doubting Ephren and what he was telling me. I warned him in the beginning that I better never catch him lying to me. That no matter what he had done, he had to be honest about it so I could do my job.
By the third week of settling I had promised each of the claimants I would not give up and I would fight to the end for them. This was something that would later hurt me beyond measure but at the time, I knew I had to fight for these people and I needed to keep my word.
By week four I had almost all of the Tolling Agreements signed and notarized. This was a huge accomplishment that I had worked extremely hard for. I reached out to Ephren so I could collect payment as agreed and we could move forward, onto the next phase of signing Agreements.
I was paid $500.00 by Ephren. He told me that was all he had but he would make good on the rest of my contract. Of course I was angry but here I was, so vested in this fight, promises made to these people, what else could I do but move forward?
In the sixth week I got a phone call from Ephren telling me that a few of my claimants had gone to the press and I needed to call the reporter and handle it. I got on the phone and called down to the reporter in Atlanta who was an hour away from going on the air to tell this story.
When I got him on the phone it quickly became clear what had happened. Two of my claimants had set me up. I had spent two hours on the phone with them on a three way call going over the settlement and what it would mean for them.
Keep in mind that these people were both under a Tolling Agreement which meant they had agreed not to speak about the settlement and I realized they had gone to the press.
I immediately had to put this fire out. There was no way I could allow this reporter to report on the story in which the facts had been given incorrectly and I knew if the story got out the way he presented it to me it would hinder the settlement process.
After speaking to the reporter for about a half hour, I got him to agree not to run the story the way he was going to. It was a small victory but I still had another fight to fight. I had been betrayed by the very people I was fighting for.
I spoke with Ephren that night after the story ran in Atlanta. He was thrilled and I was more confused. I told him again that he better be telling me everything because having surprises like this thrown at me was not going to work well. He assured me that I knew everything.
The next day I called the claimants who had betrayed me. I explained that I would no longer speak with them that they were in violation of breaching the Tolling Agreement.
By this time I was questioning everything. I started questioning Ephren on the alleged “Trust “that I was starting to offer the claimants. Each claimant would receive stock in the company equal to their investment. The problem this scenario is that value of stock changes and at the time I was selling this settlement, the stock had no value.
In March I received a call from Ephren telling me that the former bookkeeper was trying to blackmail him. She had all the financial records and because she had not been paid she was going to hold them.
I got on the phone with her and explained that she was interfering with a Public Company settlement and that I would be more than happy to hand over her information and the emails she had sent to Ephren if she did not send the financial records.
By the close of business that day, I had the financial records. Of course, by nature, I needed to connect all of the dots, I needed to know where the money went. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found.
I am not an accountant but it did not take me long to figure out exactly what they did and how they did it. I realized my biggest fear was true, this was in fact, a ponzi scheme. I knew the intention was not that but it had worked out that way.
So there I was, negotiating settlements with worthless stock. Somehow I pulled it off, the first settlement was completed around April, 2011 when everything came to a halt.
I got a phone call from Ephren telling me he was leaving the country to go to South America to work on some kind of gold mine. He assured me that any money raised he would put into the trust for these claimants.
I told him that I had still not been paid for my services and he assured me his accountant was going to take care of me.
So there I was, in April, I had over 600 angry claimants who I had just settled with and I had no answers as to when they would receive their stock certificates and Ephren was leaving the country.
I made a promise to these people to fight to the end and even though this had been tested beyond measure over the previous 4 months, I had no intention of walking away. I had worked for free at this point and this settlement was costing me daily, both financially and physically. My life completely revolved around this settlement.
I cannot remember how many phone calls I received from Ephren after he allegedly left the country but he continued to assure me he was raising money for the Trust.
By June I was beyond fed up. I had been left to handle these people with no answers. The settlement agreements had still not been executed and for two months I worked keeping the masses calm about the situation.
I had become friends with a few of the insiders and I reached out to one and told him I was walking, there was no way I could keep this going. No payment for six months, I had people hounding me for answers that I did not have. Ephren had disappeared; there was no way I could keep this going.
My friend gave me the name of someone else who I learned was the puppet master behind all of this. I was shocked, I had no idea there were other people involved. I called him right away and had a conversation with him about my part and my concerns.
This person claimed he did not know what was going on and that he had made an agreement with Ephren the previous October for the company. So, having said this, the person I was talking to had control over the company stock.
We made an agreement to keep me as Settlement Administrator and we decided that we would get rid of the Trust and do a straight settlement for company stock.
I knew this still was not a good deal for the claimants but once again I knew it was better than nothing. So, I started over settling again since these people were still bound by the Tolling Agreements.
In October, while I was in the middle of settling for the third time because we had to start over and change some of the verbiage in the previous agreement to make the SEC happy, I received a call from a lawyer who I had befriended during the settlement process.
He represented one of the claimants but we had developed a good rapport. He informed me that he had filed suit to take control over Ephren’s stock in the company. There were 66,000,000 shares that Ephren had.
I knew at Ephren did not hold this stock, I knew it had been sent back to the company to use as part of the initial trust. I quickly made a phone call to the puppet master and told him that this was about to happen and he needed to act quickly.
My intention as obviously to protect my claimants, if we lost 66m shares, that would be a big chunk of the money that would be available for the claimants recovery.
I did not give it any more thought, I assumed the puppet master had cancelled the stock and we were moving forward as I was finishing up the settlement for the third time.
Still unpaid, I was fighting for the claimants and I was fighting for myself. It was a huge mess. IN December, 2011 I wrote my letter of resignation and I told the puppet master I would not hand over the agreement and Tolling Agreements which I had spent almost a year getting. I told him this was my work product and I had not been compensated per our agreement.
I remained in contact with all the claimants, I could not just turn my back on them. At the end of the day I knew nothing was going to happen because I still had no executed agreements, there was no sign that the “company” was going to make good on these agreements.
In January I received a phone call that a new CEO had been appointed for City Capital Corporation. Of course, being the person I am, I had to find out who it was and I needed to reach out immediately.
I finally got the information and one night in January, I picked up the phone and called the new CEO. I got him on the phone and explained who I was and asked him if he was aware that he just walked into the biggest mess he will ever know of.
He assured me that he had been told nothing. Honestly, I did not believe him but it was neither here nor there, the fact was, he was now culpable for the mess.
He and I spoke several times over the next few days. He realized very quickly that he needed me to put these fires out so he was essentially backed into a corner.
We worked out a deal and at the end of February, 2012, he put out a press release introducing himself and announcing that my company would be handling the settlement.
This was the first time I had been put out to the public, up until this time, the only people who knew of me were the claimants. I had worked very hard to stay out of the spotlight.
I was not comfortable with this but I knew that the only chance of this settlement happening would come if I agreed to do this.
Part of the contract I had with the new CEO was that my company would be responsible for executing the settlement agreements and issuing the stock to the claimants. I would not trust in this being done by anyone else after being burned three times previously.
When the press release went out, they included my Twitter information which was against my wishes but it was too late. The information was out there.
In the first few weeks of a brand new settlement with new rules, things seemed a little promising. The new CEO brought a promising company into City Capital and it appeared that things just may work this time.
It was a tough sell to the claimant s, we had already done this three times. I explained to each of them the new rules and they all had faith in me because I had kept my word of not giving up.
I had still not been paid for the entire previous year. I received the Power of Attorney giving me authorization to issue the stock and we were moving forward.
In March, 2012 things were moving along and the game changed. All of a sudden the stock started trading. Now, keep in mind this could have been very good news for my cause because with trading stock, the very thing I was offering was more valuable.
The big question was why was the stock trading all of a sudden? At first I thought that it could be because this press release had gone out and shareholders were excited about the prospects but in my gut I knew something was very wrong with this picture.
I did research and saw when the new stock was put into the market. For several weeks, 60 million shares of stock went into the market and traded. It was that moment, I will never forget. I was in shock, I was angry.
The stock I had called the puppet master about back in October had just been put into the market even though it had been cancelled. How could this happen?
It took me a matter of hours to connect these dots. Since I had Power of Attorney, I could call the Transfer Agent and find out exactly who stock had been issued to and when. I realized the puppet master had put these 60 million shares into the market and made money. This stock was for the claimants and that rat had taken it all.
Of course, I called him immediately and I told him he had one chance to tell me the truth. He had to know that I already had the proof and he admitted that he took the stock and had it reissued but assured me it had to be done to pump the stock up.
I knew the pump and dump game well. After all the digging I had one, I got quite an education on what these people will do, there were no boundaries.
I asked the puppet master why. I was sick, I was angry, I told him he could not just take half he had to be greedy and take it all.
I knew it was game over at that point. The stock was gone, there would be nothing left for my claimants. We had been taken. Not just the claimants, I was taken too. I knew I had handed the puppet master that stock.
I called the CEO and explained to him that he was now part of an illegal stock transaction and he offered me twice the stock than was written into my contract. I could not believe the nerve. Here I was telling him this was all illegal and that he played a part in this, he was trying to con me. There was no way I would ever touch a single share of stock and I knew there was no way I could issue stock to any claimant knowing what I knew.
After a week of going around and around, fighting the evil, I received the call. The SEC had filed a lawsuit against City Capital Corp and Ephren Taylor. I knew this was the end.
I called the CEO to tell him the news and he said this was good news. I remember standing there holding the phone in disbelief that this was being said to me. I explained that this was far from good news and that we were done.
The next day the SEC froze the company stock and it was official. Without stock to offer, the settlement was frozen as well.
We had several calls that day, all the corrupt people trying to figure out how to keep the game going, I am guessing so they could make just one more dollar.
Over the next few months I had a lot of people to answer to. The claimants who I promised to fight for became angry with me. This was extremely confusing and painful for me. I had worked for 15 months fighting a battle for them without compensation and they were blaming me?
It didn’t take long before the bloggers started dragging me through the mud as well. At this point I had lost all hope in humanity. I was the only good one involved in this. I was used, I was taken advantage of, I was made a fool of and I was being dragged through the mud?
For three years I kept a very low profile. I did not want to give these people any more ammunition to use against me.
Many times I posted my number on Twitter and told the bloggers to call me if they had questions, I had nothing to hide, nobody ever called but they kept blogging.
Today, I have the satisfaction of knowing that Ephren has been found guilty. The sad reality is that there are others who actually did as much damage if not more and they are free. They stole the stock that Ephren gave for the claimants and made their money.
At the end of the day I believe what goes around comes around and I cannot make it my mission in life to see them suffer. I have a life to live and things to do, I cannot keep looking backward, I can only look forward.
This experience gave me an education that money cannot buy. I am haunted by the things I saw but this gives me strength to be a better person.
Far from perfect, I hold my head high because I kept my promise. I ruined my own life in the process but I did not go back on my word. I fought to the end, the very end and to those who have judged me, shame on you.
Keep in mind that there is a lot more to this story, personal stuff, every single day was a struggle because every day through these 15 months, I had new stuff thrown at me.
It would take at least 300 pages to write the entire story, there was so much but this offers the skeleton of the story, the truth, and the real story.
I believe at the end of the day, sometimes all we have is our integrity. Being attacked has taken a toll, the entire thing took a big toll on me, in ways that nobody will ever know but I know in my heart of hearts, I did the right thing. I fought the fight and this entire thing taught me how much strength I really have. Nothing and nobody can take it away from me. Say what you want, the truth is the truth.
I have been told countless times what a fool I was. I understand this but I made a promise and at the end of the day, I know I sacrificed myelf in the process but I kept my word.
For those who want to know more or want to judge me, feel free to call me to discuss 443.386.7744
My Journey now...
To address life issues and help as many people as I can, by talking about my story as well as listening to other's stories..
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