A Florida man and his three sons are accused of selling a toxic bleachlike chemical mixture as a miracle cure for the novel coronavirus and other diseases, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Mark Grenon, 62, and sons, Jonathan, 34; Jordan, 26; and Joseph, 32, allegedly marketed and sold Miracle Mineral Solution (“MMS”) through an entirety called the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, according to the criminal complaint. A federal judge in Miami had ordered the church to stop selling the substance in April, but the order was ignored, authorities said.
“Not only is this MMS product toxic, but its distribution and use may prevent those who are sick from receiving the legitimate healthcare they need," said Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "A United States District Court already has ordered the defendants to stop distributing this product; we will not sit idly by as individuals purposefully violate Court orders and put the public in danger.”
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The Grenons allegedly directed their customers to ingest the MMS orally, which causes it to become chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleaching agent normally used for "industrial water treatment or bleaching textiles, pulp and paper," according to the complaint.
The Food and Drug Administration said that drinking MMS is the same as drinking bleach and can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening low blood pressure. Some people who drank MSS were hospitalized, developed life-threatening conditions, and died, federal officials said.
Before it was marketed as a cure for COVID-19, the Grenons presented it as a remedy for autism, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, the complaint said.
"Making claims that unproven drugs, especially potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products, can cure or prevent COVID-19 or any other disease is unacceptable," said Catherine Hermsen, assistant commissioner of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
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"The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has actively and deliberately placed consumers at risk with their fraudulent Miracle Mineral Solution and Americans expect and deserve medical treatments that have been scientifically proven to be safe and effective."
The complaint said the Grenons initially agreed to abide by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams' order that they stop selling the solution, before changing their tone in podcasts and emails to the judge herself.
“We will NOT be participating in any of your UNCONSTITUTIONAL Orders, Summons, etc," one email from Mark Grenon read. “Again and again I have written you all that ... you have NO authority over our Church."
The Grenons are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and criminal contempt, according to the complaint.
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Florida has witnessed a surge in coronavirus cases within the last month. More than 10,000 new infections were reported Tuesday, according to the Florida Department of Public Health. As of early Thursday, the state has seen at least 223,783 total confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 3,889 deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report