Quantcast
Connect with us

Judge orders Seattle man to repay $7.8 million for running ‘pay to pray’ website scam

Published

on

By Maria L. La Ganga

Businessman Benjamin Rogovy has been ordered to repay millions for ‘deceptive’ website con that charged thousands of people for prayers

ADVERTISEMENT

The testimonials were glowing: Pastor John Carlson prayed for them and God delivered on his prayers. A healthy baby. A negative HIV test. A winning lottery ticket. The senior pastor at the Christian Prayer Center (CPC) saved homes from foreclosure and put cancer into remission.

Except, of course, he didn’t.

The online prayer service was a fake, the creation of a Seattle businessman who was shut down this week by the Washington state attorney general’s office after bilking 125,000 people across the country out of more than $7 million.

Benjamin Rogovy was ordered to stop what attorney general Bob Ferguson called “unfair and deceptive business practices” and repay the money he took from unwitting customers along with attorney costs, court fees and $1m in civil penalties if he does not comply with the order.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I believe in the power of prayer,” Ferguson said in a statement. “What I do not believe in and what I will not tolerate is unlawful businesses that prey upon people – taking advantage of their faith or their need for help – in order to make a quick buck.”

Rogovy’s websites — christianprayercenter.com and oracioncristiana.org — offered to pray for desperate English and Spanish speakers if they paid between $9 and $35 for the service. He created fake ministers who would assist with religious ceremonies and were available for consultation. The CPC also used the name “Pastor Eric Johnson”; according to the attorney general’s office neither Pastor Johnson nor Pastor Carlson exist.

In addition, Rogovy locked his hapless victims into recurring monthly payments through a “deliberately confusing website”.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The AGO investigation found that once consumers submitted and paid for a prayer request, they were directed to a Web page that gave them the option to receive ‘continued blessings’,” Ferguson’s statement said. “Between 2011 and 2015, CPC collected more than $7 million from 125,000 consumers nationwide. Some of these consumers were charged repeatedly, resulting in a total of over 400,000 transactions.”

Consumers must file a complaint with the Washington state attorney general’s office by 12 June to receive a refund. They can do so online, and will receive an e-mail from the Christian Prayer Center by 6 April informing them of the process.

On Thursday, the fake prayer websites told viewers: “The Christian Prayer Center is now closed. We thank you for all the prayers, and we cherish the opportunity to have created a place where Christians could meet to support each other.” The sites then referred viewers to other prayer centers, including ones that did not ask for payment in return.

ADVERTISEMENT

The center did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment left on a phone number listed on its still functioning Facebook page.

Ferguson said Rogovy also defrauded consumers through another fake, for-profit ministry called the Christian National Church, and the so-called Consumer Complaint Agency (CCA), which promised to hold businesses accountable for a fee of $25.

Rogovy has been ordered to repay around 40,000 victims nationwide a total of $750,000. No claim needs to be filed to receive restitution from the CCA.

ADVERTISEMENT

If you have information about this story contact: [email protected]

Watch a report on Rogovy’s scam, as aired on KOMO-TV, below.

ADVERTISEMENT

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Plutonium found in Colorado soil at five times higher level than acceptable radioactive level

Published

on

Why is there plutonium in the soil of a national wildlife refuge that is five times higher than the rate that demands a "clean up?" It's a question Colorado state health officials are examining Tuesday after their soil sample readings showed 264 picocuries-per-gram found in Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

The Denver Post reported the findings of the radioactive substance, but toxicologists at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said they don't believe "there is an immediate public health threat."

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Wisconsin political professor shatters the biggest misconception about Trump’s base with a revealing poll

Published

on

One of the most enduring ideas the general public, and especially Democrats, have about President Donald Trump's supporters is that they are bound by an unflappable, cult-like devotion to the president that transcends any sort of logic, reason, or reservations.

But in a lengthy thread on Twitter Tuesday, former University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin revealed polling data that show this isn't quite true. There are plenty of solid Trump partisans — but voters supporting Trump are, on average, less attached to him than voters opposing Trump are repelled by him:

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump told NRA’s Wayne LaPierre he’s not ‘waffling’ anymore — background checks are off the table

Published

on

President Donald Trump made a congratulatory phone call to National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre to let the far-right organization know that the White House was reversing itself and would not be supporting universal background checks for firearms sales.

Following shooting massacres in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Trump had argued the time was now for background checks.

"Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks," Trump argued. "Perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!"

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image