(CBS) — A Florida father and sons have continued to sell a potentially deadly bleach product billed as a miracle cure for COVID-19 through a fake church, despite a federal judge ordering them to stop, federal officials said in filing criminal charges against them.
Mark Grenon and three sons – Jonathan, Jordon and Joseph – are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and distribute mislabeled drugs, according to the suit filed in the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint, the four allegedly pitched “Miracle Mineral Solution,” or MMS, a toxic bleach, as a cure for COVID-19.
“They sold this dangerous product under the guise of Genesis II Church of Health and Healing (“Genesis”), an entity they allegedly created in an attempt to avoid government regulation of MMS,” according to a statement detailing the allegations.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration “has received reports of people requiring hospitalizations, developing life-threatening conditions, and dying after drinking MMS,” noted the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida, which did not elaborate further.
The government had already filed civil charges against Grenon and his adult children and obtained a court order barring them from continuing to market MMS. The family responded by threatening violence against the judge in the case, federal officials 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. 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,” Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in the statement.
Grenon, of Bradentown, Florida, and his offspring could not be reached for comment.
The family earned $500,000 in 2019 selling their potions to thousands of vulnerable Americans, according to the Justice Department. Profits surged in March 2020, when the family began falsely touting MMS as a cure for the novel coronavirus and taking in about $123,000 during the month, the feds said.
That’s even though the FDA has for years warned consumers not to buy or drink chlorine dioxide products such as MMS sold as medical treatments.
The legal action comes as part of a government effort to stymie scams related to the pandemic, with consumers pitched phony cure-alls or immunity when there is no known vaccine or cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.