Christian Prayer Center founder Benjamin Rogovy will return millions of dollars to consumers who paid for prayers. According to the Washington Attorney General, the Seattle man duped thousands of people out of millions of dollars through its "pay for prayer" website.
For violations of Washington's Consumer Protection Act, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Rogovy will pay nearly $7.75 million to 165,000 customers who were swindled by various companies operated by the unscrupulous entrepreneur.
By using false testimonials on his website and creating fabricated religious leaders, Rogovy collected over $7 million from customers during a four-year period. From 2011 to 2015, the Seattle-based online church tricked customers into paying anywhere between $9 and $35 for prayers.
"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," Ferguson said in a news release.
According to KOMO News, the Christian Prayer Center would accept prayer requests from consumers and in return, thousands of Christians would receive the request. However, the request wouldn't go to anyone unless you registered on the site, answered a prayer survey, and paid a fee.
Additionally, many of the prayer seekers had agreed to repeat nonrefundable monthly credit card charges and didn't realize it. The Seattle office of the Better Business Bureau became aware of the company after the agency began fielding multiple calls from angry consumers over the practice.
According to David Quinlan with the BBB, people started calling in when they were unable to reach anyone at the Christian Prayer Center regarding a refund. The Attorney General's office was alerted to the prayer service site after receiving 18 complaints from several individuals around the nation, which triggered the investigation into the company's operations.
On Wednesday, the Christian Prayer Center website posted a closed message with links to other unaffiliated prayer sites.
"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 message said.
The AG's office is also accusing Rogovy of using deceptive and unfair practices in the operation of yet another, completely different business.
Also founded by the bogus businessman, the Consumer Complaint Agency was set up to help consumers with complaints against businesses. However, the company never handled any complaints, but simply forwarded them for a $25 service fee.
"Then we learned that Mr. Rogovy also was operating the Consumer Complaint Agency," said assistant attorney general Dan Davies. "It gives the appearance of being an official organization like a government organization or a law firm."
Rogovy first entered the online entrepreneurship world in 2005 when he created a scheme called "Bumvertising." The idea was to pay panhandlers a fee to advertise a Rogovy-owned game website on their cardboard signs. At the time, the young capitalist said the arrangement was an ingenious way to help those less fortunate.
Anyone who purchased prayer services from the Christian Prayer Center or from its sister site, Oracion Cristiana, between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2015, are eligible for a full refund. Those affected will receive an email by April 8 with instructions on how to file a complaint and receive the refund, according to the Washington AG's office.
The Attorney General's office will accept complaints for Benjamin Rogovy's Christian Prayer Service site until June 12. Customers who paid for the services of the Consumer Complaint Agency do not need to file a claim, as refunds will be issued by the company.
[Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]