Suit Alleges Bishop Long Defaulted on Property

By Megan Matteucci
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
October 11, 2010

Bishop Eddie Long said Tuesday if people believed media reports, "I'd be scared to show up, I'd be scared to look at you. But there's something in me bigger than the situation."

Embattled Bishop Eddie Long took a hit Monday as a new suit was filed, ordering him and two others to pay $1.9 million for defaulting on a property loan.

The suit filed Monday asked the DeKalb County State Court to order Long and the others to pay off the debt in 10 days or incur additional fines and attorneys' fees.

This is the fifth lawsuit filed against the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church leader in less than a month. The other four suits, which were also filed against the DeKalb County megachurch, accuse Long of coercing four young men into sex in exchange for cars, lavish trips and jobs. The AJC is the only media outlet to obtain the latest suit.

The financial suit filed Monday names only Long and does not include the church.

Long's spokesman Art Franklin and his attorney Jason Wright declined to comment Monday.

"I am unaware of the lawsuit that you referenced and have no comment about it at this time," Franklin said.

The new suit stems from August 2007 when Long and two business partners as part of the West Indies Holding Company bought a gym in Jonesboro. Long's partners include Marrion Heflin, a self-employed businessman, and Frederick Folson of McDonough, who runs non-profit Strategic Community Initiatives in Lithonia.

Long and his partners signed an agreement to purchase Hoops N' Fitness on Tara Boulevard for $643,556 plus $223,000 in interest, according to a promissory note obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In 2009, the seller, Danny Wright and J.D. Rock Enterprises, filed suit, alleging Long and his partners had not paid any of the debt. That suit is still pending.

On Monday, the mortgage company, State Bank and Trust and the FDIC, filed suit against Long and his partners.

The new suit alleges the three parties owe $1.86 million on the defaulted loan, along with $32,000 in interest. That interest more than $300 a day -- is continuing to accrue, according to the suit.

Mark Golder, a lawyer for State Bank and Trust did not return phone calls nor an email Monday.

Heflin said he was unaware of the new suit, but said he has been trying to settle the previous suit.

Heflin said he is not a member of New Birth nor a friend of Long's, but agreed to form a business with Long and Folson. In 2005, they formed the West Indies Holding Company and two years later they bought the gym.

"I never made any payments personally, but I can't speak for West Indies," Heflin told the AJC on Monday. "All I know is when we acquired Hoops N Fitness, we had a grace period before we had to start paying. We had some differences with the business execution and I decided to cut back."

Heflin said he went out of the country several months after the buying the gym and has not had any contact with Long nor the other business partners. Heflin said he has called Long's lawyers and others involved since returning to the U.S. in August, but his calls have not been returned.

"I just want to clear this quagmire up," Heflin said.

West Indies Holding Company is registered to a man in Bainbridge, but has not filed up to date paperwork since 2008, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Gus Small, a lawyer for J.D. Rock Enterprises, which sold the gym to the group, said the suits are pending and declined to comment further.

Messages left at Hoops N' Fitness were not returned Monday. However, the Jonesboro city clerk said the business' license is valid and has no outstanding debts. Jonesboro does not have property taxes.

The four men who have filed suit against Long are all seeking jury trials, and said the suits are not about money. Each of the plaintiffs allege Long gave them cars, cash and gifts, along with taking them on lavish trips, in exchange for sex.

Long has denied the allegations.

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