The testimonials were glowing: Pastor John Carlson prayed for them and God delivered on his prayers. A healthy baby. A negative HIV test. A winning lottery ticket. The senior pastor at the Christian Prayer Center (CPC) saved homes from foreclosure and put cancer into remission. Except, of course, he didn’t. The online prayer service was a fake, the creation of a Seattle businessman who was shut down this week by the Washington state attorney general’s office after bilking 125,000 people across the country out of more than $7m.

Benjamin Rogovy was ordered to stop what the attorney general, Bob Ferguson, called “unfair and deceptive business practices” and repay the money he took from unwitting customers along with attorney costs, court fees and $1m in civil penalties if he does not comply with the order. “I believe in the power of prayer,” Ferguson said in a statement. “What I do not believe in and 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.” READ MORE