Televangelist Peter Popoff is back in the spotlight thanks to an unlikely name-drop. He’s mentioned in the new Nas track “YKTV,” which the rapper released on Aug. 6.
In the track’s interlude, YouTube parody star Jaboody Dubs says, “Hey there, I’m Peter Popoff, and it’s about to pop off.”
In case you aren't familiar with Popoff, the 75-year-old built a reputation as a clairvoyant and a faith healer in the 1980s. He also built a sizable net worth, it seems—before an investigation revealed how he received his “divine” intelligence.
Popoff relied on his wife and his earpiece for his faith healer routine.
Popoff is so notorious that there’s a whole webpage devoted to his trickery on the Western Australian government’s ScamNet site. As the site reports, this “phony prophet who profits” would accurately list the home addresses and illnesses of audience members at ministry conventions and would even appear to make wheelchair users walk.
But as GQ reported in a 2017 profile, the magician James Randi and a freelance team of investigators debunked Popoff’s act in 1986. Using a radio scanner, the team discovered that Popoff was getting information from wife Liz through an earpiece. Liz was getting her information from planted audience members who struck up conversations with unassuming marks in the crowd. As for the wheelchair users, ScamNet says they could already walk.
Peter Popoff still has a reported net worth of $10 million.
Following Randi’s investigation—and a Tonight Show episode in which Johnny Carson exposed Popoff’s tricks—the Peter Popoff Evangelistic Association filed for bankruptcy in 1987.
Following the bankruptcy, Popoff resurrected his ministry as People United for Christ, according to GQ. By 2003, the organization was making more than $9 million per year, while Popoff and his wife were earning a yearly salary of more than $500,000. By 2006, the ministry was making more than $35 million in revenue, and by 2009, Popoff’s monthly salary was $100,000.
Popoff asks for money as an “obedience offering” for God.
ScamNet details some of Popoff’s recent ventures, including his marketing of “miracle spring water,” “miracle manna cakes,” “miracle angel coins,” and “secret healing touch envelopes.” In letters to interested parties, he addresses the recipient as “Member of the 112 Team of God’s Potential Millionaires” and says that “God is requesting an obedience offering.”
GQ journalist Mark Oppenheimer received similar solicitations after singing up for Popoff’s mailing list. “Remember you must sow the largest bill you have or the largest check you can write,” one read.
Now the Government of Western Australia’s Consumer Protection division is sounding the alarm on Popoff via ScamNet.
“Normally, this type of rubbish is penned by fake psychics who tap into people’s vulnerabilities by offering false hope and useless trinkets in return for money,” the government division explains. “This leaves us no choice but to put Peter Popoff in the ‘psychic scam’ category. There is nothing more evil than using people’s faith to line your own pockets!”