Pay-to-Pray scam that fed on faith and desperation is ordered to pay $7 million in restitution.
There is a certain helplessness that you feel as a parent knowing that your child is terminally ill and that there is nothing you can do about it, but pray. It makes you closer to God. However, it also makes you vulnerable to many of the scams out there. There are parasites in our society who do not have any moral or ethical values waiting to pounce upon people during their time of desperation, and their main tool is the Internet. The world of the Internet is filled with scams, and the lowest of the lowest among these scams are the pay-to-pray scams.
The Attorney General’s office of Washington received its first letter of complaint against the Christian Prayer Center in the year 2014, from a family that was furious and heartbroken. The letter/complaint was rejected because of insufficient information. Then they got a detailed letter from the family stating how the Christian Prayer Center took advantage of their vulnerable situation to make money. According to the letter, they came upon the website christianprayercenter.com (English version) and oracioncristiana.org (Spanish version) while looking for hope for their terminally ill child. The website said thousands of people will pray for them for a small amount of money. The site contained testimonials from hundreds of people, and there was also an official pastor representing the site. The family, willing to grasp all the straws they could find, sent $35 to the Christian Prayer Center to pray for their ailing child. It was when the father of the child noticed his credit card getting charged again and again by the Center without his approval that he realized something was amiss. Upon further investigation, he realized it was a scam, and contacted the Attorney General’s office.
Daniel Davies, the Assistant Attorney General, said the testimonials on the site were fake, and the pastor was a sham. The Court has ordered the owner of the website to pay a sum of $7 million in compensation to the thousands of people who got duped by the site. The Attorney General’s office announced the settlement last week. The statement said, Benjamin Rogovy, a businessman from Seattle, and the Christian Prayer Center, posted fake testimonials on the site to attract people. The Christian Prayer Center scam is just one among the three that is addressed in the settlement.
As of now, the website has been shut down, and Benjamin Rogovy warned that he will have to pay an additional $1 million in civil penalties if he does not stop engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices.
Bob Ferguson, Washington Attorney General, said that he believes in the power of prayer. However, he will not tolerate unlawful business practices that take advantage of faith to make quick money.