Man who ran 'pay for prayer' website to pay $7.8 million in restitution
SEATTLE -- A Seattle man accused of deceiving people with online Christian websites has agreed to pay consumers $7.8 million.
The Washington State Attorney General says the Christian Prayer Center website, where you had to pay to receive prayers, was one of three deceptive online schemes devised by Benjamin Rogovy.
"He used deceptive tactics to lure people in to pay their hard earned money for this, and that's not right," said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Just last month, we revealed how some people signing up to request prayers didn't realize 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.
And while KOMO News was trying to find Rogovy to get answers, the state was already investigating the prayer scheme.
"Then we learned that Mr. Rogovy also was operating the Consumer Complaint Agency," said assistant attorney general Dan Davies.
The state says that website tricked consumers into paying to settle their complaints -- that were never handled.
"It gives the appearance of being an official organization like a government organization or a law firm," Davies said.
On a third website, The Christian National Church, investigators say Rogovy used stock photos and fake testimonials to charge money for online ordination services. The state just shut down all three.
Rogovy will have to pay $7.8 million in penalties and restitution.
"I believe in the power of prayer. I do. I believe in that," Ferguson said. "But to capitalize on that. Right? That yearning for support. That spiritual support. To take advantage of that in a deceptive way- how low can you go?"