Televangelist Peter Popoff claims he is a healer, and appears on infomercials seen across the country performing “miracles.” He also says that the power of God flows through him and can cure whatever ails you. Popoff doesn’t just heal your body, he says he can heal your wallet too.
But Popoff isn’t new to television. Two decades ago, on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Popoff was exposed as a fraud by well-known skeptic James Randi.
Popoff claimed God spoke directly to him, and seemed to know everything about the people attending his crusades, including their health problems. But Randi took a scanner to some of Popoff’s events and picked up radio transmissions. It turns out the voice Popoff heard wasn’t God’s, but his wife, Elizabeth’s
The radio transmissions captured Elizabeth saying, “Hello Petey. I love you. I’m talking to you. Can you hear me? If you can’t you’re in trouble…”
Popoff’s wife had previously gotten personal information from people in the audience, and then fed it to her husband electronically through an earpiece. After the scam was exposed, Popoff dropped off TV, and declared bankruptcy in 1987.
But now Popoff is back, and business is better than ever. He operates out of a large facility east of Los Angeles and according to tax returns, his ministry took in more than $23 million in 2005. He paid himself more than $600,000 and he paid about $600,000 more to his wife and 2 kids. He drives a $100,000 Porsche, and lives in a $2.1 million home.
So where does all the money for his lavish lifestyle come from? Well people who watch Popoff’s shows are encouraged to send away for his free “Miracle Spring Water.”
But is it really free? INSIDE EDITION ordered some “Miracle Water,” which came with what Popoff calls a bag of sacred Dead Sea salt that you’re supposed to sprinkle over a check for $27 and send to Popoff. But, as INSIDE EDITION found, it’s really just a salt package you’d get in a deli or fast-food restaurant.
As for the “Miracle Water,” the instructions say to drink it, and in five days you will be blessed with riches. Of course first, you need to send Popoff another check.
INSIDE EDITION spoke with Cathy Rowe and her disabled husband Donald who say they fell for Popoff’s pitch. They borrowed thousands of dollars from relatives saying they were going to pay their bills, but instead, they sent it to Popoff, $4500 in all.
“I just look back on it and think you know I’m a pretty stupid person,” Cathy said.
INSIDE EDITION’s Senior Investigative Correspondent, Matt Meagher, tried to talk to Popoff about the way he solicits money, but Popoff slammed his car door in Meagher’s face.
James Randi says he’s not surprised that Popoff is back. “Flim flam is his profession,” Randi said. “That’s what he does best. He’s very good at it and naturally he’s gonna go back to it.”
Feb. 27, 2007 Transcript