People who paid for prayers will have millions refunded

People who paid for prayers will have millions refunded March 17, 2016

Seattle man Benjamin Rogovy, inset above, made millions running a ‘pay to pray’ website, but came unstuck when US officials began investigating his activities.
According to this report, the Washington State Attorney General said the Christian Prayer Center website was one of three deceptive online schemes devised by Rogovy. The state has just shut down all three sites and Rogovy will have to pay $7.8 million in penalties and restitution.
Said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson:

He used deceptive tactics to lure people in to pay their hard earned money for this, and that’s not right. I believe in the power of prayer. I do. I believe in that. But to capitalise on that. Right? That yearning for support. That spiritual support. To take advantage of that in a deceptive way – how low can you go?

Just last month, KOPO News revealed how some people signing up to request prayers didn’t realise they were agreeing to repeat credit card charges with no refunds. It was a practice that outraged legitimate Pastor John Carlson, who says his name was linked to the website without his consent.
According to court records, Rogovy took in millions of dollars by routinely using fake testimonials, fake names and stock photos.
While KOMO News was trying to find Rogovy to get answers, the state was already investigating the prayer scheme.
Said Assistant Attorney General Dan Davies.

Then we learned that Mr. Rogovy also was operating the Consumer Complaint Agency.

This website tricked consumers into paying to settle complaints that were never handled. Davies said:

It gives the appearance of being an official organisation like a government organization or a law firm.

On a third website, The Christian National Church, investigators say Rogovy used stock photos and fake testimonials to charge money for online ordination services.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn

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  • AgentCormac

    How low can you go? The same question could well be asked of every relgious institution in the world as every last one of them uses falsehood to offer false hope.

  • Brian Jordan

    The objections seem to relate to his business practices. Evidently all would have been OK if he’d used legal methods while still fleecing the gullible.

  • Broga

    Isn’t this what the churches do? The RC Church is a brilliant scam artist. They can sell you an entry into heaven. Martin Luther thought they had gone a tad too far when the sold not only the forgiveness of sins past but for any you might commit. Of course, you had to put big money in the Vatican coffers for that.

  • ben

    The guy was running a scam. Exactly like all religious organisations do, and what is more, get away with …. and tax free too. Religious organisations are nothing more than crime syndicates. And will ever be so until stupid people stop believing and sponsoring them. Stupid people being the stupefied halfwits who toss away their hard earned cash and the politicians who let the pious get away with it.

  • David Anderson

    “A foole and his monie be soon at debate
    which after sorrow repents him too late”. Tusser Thomas

  • barriejohn

    I wish I could get MY money back. I was promised that “your reward is in heaven”, but I’m now having serious doubts about that!

  • Broga

    @barriejohn: That is the beauty of the scam. Once dead you are not there to refute the fantasies that you were fed. I remember so well a few years ago, after a Christian funeral, hearing people talking about the deceased (cremated) as if he was now watching them. There were comments about how pleased he would be that somebody had travelled a long way to be there, about the location of his grave etc….
    It was weird to hear them making these comments as of they were facts.

  • L.Long

    Just how is this dude different than any preacher????
    Oh! Right no politically powerful church behind him.

  • barriejohn

    Broga: I know! “I’m sure he’s looking down at us now and having a good laugh at all this”. Really?
    But why on earth would anyone PAY someone else to say prayers for them? Isn’t it quite clear from the Bible that ANYONE can pray to “God” at any time they want? However, I agree that he seems to have been found guilty on a technicality, as the RC Church, in particular, has been operating this racket for generation – in particular, saying prayers for the dead if they bequeathed it enough filthy lucre.

  • Ivan

    I am reminded once more of the late, great Kenny Everett who once said he was tortured by the teachings of the RC Church until he realised that it was basically just a business. After that, he said his only regret was that he didn’t think of it first as religion was basically the best business idea ever.

  • I don’t know what a “legitimate Pastor” is and I don’t know how the State can determine which prayers were answered and which prayers weren’t (if, as is sometimes claimed, prayers are sometimes answered with a “no.”).
    The State pretends some superstitions are “legitimate” and others are not. I’d prefer the State get out of the superstition licensing business entirely.

  • barriejohn

    If you go to his website, you will find a list of similar sites where you can register your “prayer requests” (what a relief!). Here’s one:
    Ivan: Kenny Everett returned to his Catholic faith shortly before his death, and a traditional requiem mass was held for him at his funeral. That’s the power of religion.

  • Broga

    God must work in more mysterious ways than we thought if these daft prayer requests have any effect. Creator of billions of galaxies with billions of stars in them and God is responding to this piddling nonsense. Brian Cox said something along the lines of:
    “A bunch of biological organisms residing temporarily on a speck of rock.”
    That’s us folks. And I find the perspective reassuring.

  • Lon

    All religious organizations and “legitimate pastors” use deceptive tactics. When the state shuts down brother Ben, the state will have to follow through and shut them all down. Too much to hope for, i know, but for five bucks i’ll fervently pray to that end.

  • Stephen Mynett

    Before being gaoled for the savings and loan scam he was running, Charles Keating had fleeced many people, some of their life savings. He had also made a donation of at least §250,000 to the Albanian poison dwarf’s “charity”. On hearing of his court case, Theresa wrote to the judge asking for clemency because he was a good man.
    After Keating was found guilty, the attorney representing those who had been conned wrote to Theresa and asked if she would like to return the stolen cash to these people who were suffering as a result of the scam. He never received a reply.
    Christopher Hitchens explained that much better than I can but it is yet another example of if you are a recognised church you can con who you like.

  • barriejohn

    TBN UK sometimes airs programmes by Reinhard Bonnke’s Christ for All Nations outfit, now usually featuring apprentice conman Daniel Kolenda and his simpering wife. He asks viewers to send their “prayer requests”, and, often at one of his huge rallies in Africa (where else?), where the dead are routinely raised (though hard evidence has sadly not been forthcoming), hundreds of these “requests” will be placed in an enormous chest, while the evangelist and little wifey “pray over them” (she says little but gazes at him with adoring eyes!). I couldn’t actually locate a clip of this precise procedure, but this one gives a flavour of the nonsense being promulgated by this bunch of fraudsters:
    If these prayers are so effective, why do we still have hospitals?

  • tonye

    I have to be honest, but there is a (small) part of me that thinks he should be allowed to keep the money.
    There comes a point when people have to take responsibility for their own, wilful, stupidity.

  • barriejohn

    @tonye: It would appear that he wasn’t ordered to repay the money because he’s an out and out charlatan, but because people were conned into signing for continuous direct debits without their knowledge, and for blatant fraud on the other two websites. If he had kept within the law then all the money would be his, and why not?

  • tonye

    Cheers for the clarification.

  • Stephen Mynett

    If these prayers are so effective, why do we still have hospitals?
    Similar to my question Barriejohn, why is there not a dump of disused wheelchairs, crutches etc at Lourdes?
    Of course, we both know the answer, they would have been cured but did not have enough faith.
    As for the continuous credit card payments, a dumb move by the conman, although there are companies who do similar things here but there are ways out of it, albeit bloody difficult.

  • Brian Jordan

    Daniel Kolenda? surely with a name like that, he should give it up and become a Pastafarian, :=)

  • barriejohn

    Stephen Mynett: There are several cartoons available in similar vein to the following, so we’re obviously not the only ones with such thoughts.
    Brian Jordan: He must be Pasta Kolenda!

  • ben

    This is the second oldest buisness model. But it is by far the most cynical pernicious and dangerous. At least when the ministrations of a prostitute are paid for the client gets sexual relief with the added benefit that other women and children are not molested. But taking money from people on the lie that prayers will grant the clients wish only is only beneficial to the nasty merchant. And worse, and this has plunged mankind into centuries of retardation and warfare, is the fact that such purveyors of godly promise went on to establish the powerful religions that befoul, exploit and terrorise mankind today.

  • Stuart H.

    “why is there not a dump of disused wheelchairs, crutches etc at Lourdes?”
    The college I was at had links to the Catholic church and some students assisted with an annual trip to Lourdes. In my 2nd year I remember that a slightly disabled fellow who walked with a limp fell down some steps at Lourdes and was confined to a wheelchair for several years. Shouldn’t laugh, of course, but we did.
    On a more serious note – apparently such accidents at Lourdes are not unusual, partly because disabled visitors will obviously be unstable on their feet, but also because there are few if any safety facilities to make getting about easier for them.
    It also appears that the Catholic Church is rarely sued (the victim I mentioned was definitely leant on not to make a fuss ) and never voluntarily helps such victims. In the case I mentioned, the Lourdes staff wouldn’t even call the ambulance. One of the volunteers had to do it.