Pay to pray scam busted

 

ABC News reports…

“The man behind the Christian Prayer Center website, which Washington state authorities say charged people across the U.S. desperate for the power of prayer upward of $35 for spiritual support, is now on the hook to pay back more than $7 million to tens of thousands of customers, the state Attorney General’s Office said.

Benjamin Rogovy of Seattle used “systematic deception,” according to authorities, while running the for-profit Christian Prayer Center website as well other prayer websites and a consumer complaint service. The yearlong investigation was sparked by a consumer who had written in to the agency, saying she feared she’d been taken advantage of, authorities said.

“At the basic level, it’s a scam and he was asking people to give money under deceptive circumstances to have prayers done for them. … Pay to pray. … Nothing about it was real,” state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.

The Christian Prayer Center website not only charged consumers $9 to $35 for prayers but also “deliberately” confused some consumers into signing up for recurring monthly payments, according to authorities.

“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.’ The information was presented in a confusing manner and inadequately disclosed that the charges would reoccur until the consumer cancelled,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement Wednesday, detailing the investigation.

Investigators said that fake religious leaders, stock photos and fictitious testimonials were used to entice nearly 165,000 people between 2011 and 2015. Prayers were offered at http://www.christianprayercenter.com as well as in Spanish at http://www.oracioncristiana.org. Both sites have since been shut down.

“Rogovy’s actions violate the state Consumer Protection Act, which forbids businesses from making false claims, and the Charitable Solicitations Act, which prohibits churches and charities from using misleading or deceptive statements in any charitable solicitation,” the statement said.

The fake testimonials claimed that prayers had helped individuals avoid home foreclosure, win the lottery, as well as have a healthy baby. Rogovy also allegedly created and ran another online site called the Christian National Church.

The Christian Prayer Center website also claimed to be run by a Pastor John Carlson.

“It would send weekly inspirational emails to consumers under the pastor’s name, and even created a fake LinkedIn profile that described the Pastor’s experience as ‘Senior Pastor, Christian Prayer Center, January 2009 — present.’ [The Christian Prayer Center] also used the name ‘Pastor Eric Johnston’ to sign consumer correspondence. Neither of these people exist,” the statement said.

The Rev. John Carlson, a pastor outside of Seattle, said that he had been vilified by people who thought he was involved in the website.

“One fellow said, I remember, I was going to hell,” Carlson told KOMO-TV.

In addition to the Christian Prayer Center website, authorities said, Rogovy had used “deceptive and unfair business practices” to run the Consumer Complaint Agency, a for-profit business that promised consumers it would advocate on their behalf regarding their complaints against businesses. Ferguson said that instead, the agency had “charged consumers up to $25 for doing little more than passively forwarding complaints.”

“You go to his website and it looks very official. There’s a seal that looks official,” he said. “They forwarded those complaints to a business but that was it. … Folks paid $25 thinking they had an advocate. … They went to a con guy, a con man, who just took their money.”

Ferguson said the Consumer Complaint Agency site has also been shut down.

“In the work that I do as attorney general, I really see the lowest of the low when it comes to scams — this one ranks right up there,” Ferguson said. “It really is as low as you can get. All to make a buck. … The good news is he’s gotta pay it back.”

ABC News could not reach Rogovy for comment.”

From http://abcnews.go.com/US/owner-pay-pray-website-ordered-return-78m-consumers/story?id=37728398

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14 thoughts on “Pay to pray scam busted

  1. Greg you’re one of the more intelligent commenters on this site.

    Of course there is more to Christianity than an unwarranted respect for the Bible that filters out its more troublesome parts. There is the internal delusion of the believer seeking “peak” experiences similar to those of first time drug users. Christianity is an emotional commitment to nonsense.

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  2. Thanks Dave,
    With a face like that and the confidence to show your teeth to the world, I didn’t take you for someone to take offence easily so I was surprised to get a sermon about insulting. And it shows that some Christians find it so easy to attack other Christians, but they never stand up for their Christian faith at all and just come across as whimpering servile weak people with no opinions when confronted with a non-Christian.
    Nobody respects that.

    For what it’s worth, I agree that God often comes across as nasty in the pages of the Bible.

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  3. Christine, I’d appreciate that.

    Dave…I’m assuming you consider me a reasonably intelligent person? Based on this assumption I’d be asking you to consider why an apparently intelligent person would worship a nasty brutish God? I’ve read and studied the bible, and I see and worship the God described within its pages. Maybe there’s more to it than you’re seeing?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never taken offence at anything said on this blog and am somewhat surprised this was mentioned. The dental work comments are amusing.

    The bible depicts a nasty brutish God not worthy of worship.

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  5. David,
    If I offended you I’m sorry. But if there are any other Christians who read this besides me, then talking about a sky thug and magical blood sacrifice is pretty offensive. I didn’t think that comment about dental work would offend a man like you. But if it did, I’m sorry.
    I also wasn’t trying to evangelise you.

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  6. That’s the way to evangelise Christine; insult people. “Go out into all the world and make insults, and offend them in the name of the father and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. “

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  7. Nothing against the good social work church organisations do. This should continue.

    It’s the teaching of falsehoods such as magic blood sacrifice as a consequence of an unfortunate talking snake episode and similar nonsense. No one should feel obligated to worship a sky thug.

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  8. I don’t think all churches should be shut down.
    I think there are many churches of all denominations doing a lot of good in the world.
    Some would even offer David free dental work.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sorry – what? where does that comment come from? I’m not here to mount your arguments for you – if you disagree, say so, and explain why. What your gender has to do with things is confusing to me.

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  10. The harm done by this website pales in comparison to religion and Christianity. All churches should be shut down. They are scams through and through, and nothing is done to protect the gullible.

    The only thing true about religion is that it is false.

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