Selling Salvation?

While these items might seem odd, they are very effective in appealing to the desperately faithful. Bercier told us she stretched her tight budget and sent Popoff about $500 over time. Many others send money, as well; in fact, donations to Popoff's ministry soared from $9.6 million in 2003 up to $23 million in 2005. His California home just sold for almost $2 million, and in recent months, he's been spotted driving a Porsche and a Mercedes. Together, he and his wife were paid nearly $1 million in 2005, and two of their kids were on the payroll, as well, pulling in over $180,000 each.

If Popoff's name seems vaguely familiar, there's a very good reason. His miracle healing services first propelled him up the televangelist ladder in the mid-1980s. His rise abruptly ended when private investigator James Randi exposed Popoff's healing services in a big way. Randi, who's made a career of exposing psychics, healers and the supernatural, noticed that Popoff seemed to know personal details of his audience members before he even met them. The information seemed to come to Popoff directly from God, but Randi's investigators found a more down-to-Earth source: Popoff's wife Elizabeth.

Before the shows began, she pre-interviewed audience members and asked them to fill out "prayer cards" with their names and addresses. Then, during the healing service, she passed that information on to Popoff through a hidden wireless earpiece he wore. Those audio transmissions — intercepted by Randi — showed Popoff being prompted by Elizabeth to pick specific audience members to speak to. Elizabeth — hidden offstage — would tell her husband their names, home addresses and ailments. Popoff then proclaimed that information to an amazed audience.

Suddenly, the miracles seemed a bit less miraculous, and after Randi played his shocking tapes on "The Tonight Show," Popoff's career went downhill fast. He reportedly filed for bankruptcy and went off the air for a time.

Almost 20 years later, his comeback now seems nearly complete, as he is back on the air pushing miracles again. Today, Popoff's program airs on seven cable TV networks, 23 times a week.

As for Bercier, she says she knew nothing of his shady past when she sent in her hard-earned cash. She said she gave the money because "it was going to be a miracle, he was just gonna heal (her sons) like that, both of them. Didn't happen."

Now, after her experience, she believes the man she had so much trust in, used her faith against her.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: The fake baby a man was carrying as he and another woman tried to sneak into the mother and baby unit at Mercy Medical Center in Merced, Calif., hospital officials said.
Dignity Health Security/Mercy Medical Center Merced
PHOTO:
dpa, Jens Wolf/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston stopped a would be smuggler from bringing nearly 7 ounces of cocaine into the country in tamales, Aug. 22, 2014.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
PHOTO: Giant panda Bao Bao celebrates her first birthday at the Smithsonians National Zoo, Aug. 23, 2014.
David Galen, Smithsonians National Zoo