WASHINGTON: US authorities have charged the leader of a fake church and his three sons with conspiracy and contempt for selling a toxic bleach as a cure for Covid-19.
The Florida man, Mark Grenon, had seized in April on remarks by President Donald Trump — who touted the possibility that injecting disinfectant could kill the virus — to flog a product he called the Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS).
“Trump has got the MMS and all the info!!! Things are happening folks!” Grenon wrote on Facebook on April 24. “Lord help others to see the Truth!”
The US attorney for southern Florida said in a document Wednesday that federal health authorities had “received reports of people requiring hospitalisations, developing life-threatening conditions, and dying after drinking MMS”.
Prosecutors did not say how many deaths had been attributed to the product.
Charged along with Grenon with conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to violate federal drug laws, and criminal contempt were his three sons: Jonathan Grenon, Jordan Grenon and Joseph Grenon, all of Bradenton, Florida.
A non-religious church
The contempt charge flowed from the fact the Grenons — working through their Genesis II Church of Health and Healing — had defied a federal order to stop selling the product.
The Justice Department said the Grenons made US$500,000 last year alone in MMS sales.
Charging documents said that “Genesis’s own websites describe Genesis as a ‘non-religious church,’ and Defendant Mark Grenon … has repeatedly acknowledged that Genesis ‘has nothing to do with religion’ and that he founded Genesis to ‘legalise the use of MMS’ and avoid ‘going [ ] to jail’.”
The church had claimed MMS would help “cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent coronavirus, which includes Covid-19, as well as other diseases including Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis”, the Justice Department said.
It added: “MMS is a chemical product which, when combined with the included activator, creates a powerful bleach product” similar to bleaches used in the industry”.
Local and federal law enforcement agencies sent investigators, some in Hazmat suits, to Genesis’s offices in Bradenton this week, local ABC subsidiary WWSB reported. It said they found 50 gallons of muriatic acid and 20 gallons of MMS.
The US Food and Drug Administration had warned years ago that MMS could cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and symptoms of severe dehydration.
Grenon pushed back in April against federal pressure, saying in a statement under Genesis’s name: “They are attacking a Church Sacrament. This is something that is ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’ to us as a Church”.