PHOENIX (CN) – “Motivational speaker” James Ray refused to return thousands of dollars to customers after he canceled events in the wake of his indictment for manslaughter, a class action claims in Maricopa County Court. Three people died and 18 were hospitalized after one of Ray’s lengthy sweat-lodge ceremonies in Sedona in October 2009.
The class claims Ray and his company, James Ray International, ignored requests for refunds. The plaintiffs say Ray lacks “sufficient assets to conduct the events or refund the pre-paid fees due to transfers to or for the benefit of Ray or entities which he controls.”
Ray also failed to warn participants that his events “involved dangerous and reckless activities with substantial risk of bodily and psychological injury and financial loss,” according to the complaint.
The class says that Ray collected money upfront for events for which he was not properly qualified or experienced to conduct.
Before the widely publicized deaths and Ray’s arrest, Ray promoted his “Harmonic Wealth philosophies and techniques” with “sophisticated sales techniques to obtain pre-paid fees for future events and event packages where, Ray represented, he would lead participants in more advanced instruction and activities,” according to the complaint.
Plaintiff Susan Smyser says she paid $7,995 for two events to be held in April; Patricia Franklin says she paid $3,346 for an event in November 2009 and another in May this year; Kim Wilson says she paid $12,586 for four events.
They estimate that the class contains more than 1,000 people.
More than 50 participants at Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” event in Sedona were crammed into a 415-square-foot sweat lodge after fasting for 36 hours. Three people died and 18 were hospitalized for dehydration and burns, according to media reports.
The class seeks damages for fraud, breach of contract and negligence. It is represented by Todd Jackson with Butler, Oden and Jackson in Tucson.