BOGOTA (CBSMiami/AP) — A Florida father and son wanted in the US for selling a toxic beach-like chemical as a “miracle” cure for coronavirus have been arrested in Colombia.
The Colombian prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that Mark and Joseph Grenon were arrested in the beach town of Santa Marta, and were shipping their “Miracle Mineral Solution” from there to clients in the United States, Colombia, and Africa.
The solution is actually chlorine dioxide — which is used as an industrial cleaner for swimming pools.
Authorities said drinking that bleach can be fatal.
The FDA said in a news release last August that “ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason.” The FDA has not approved the solution for any health-related uses.
Seven Americans have died from using the substance.
The Grenons allegedly sold tens of thousands of bottles of “Miracle Mineral Solution,” or MMS, nationwide under the guise of Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, an entity they reportedly created in an attempt to avoid government regulation.
The church’s own websites describe Genesis as a “non-religious church,” and Mark Grenon, the co-founder of Genesis, has repeatedly acknowledged that Genesis “has nothing to do with religion,” and that he founded Genesis in Bradenton to “legalize the use of MMS” and avoid “going to jail,” according to court documents.
Before the pandemic, the Grenons marketed MMS as a treatment for preventing and treating countless diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Prosecutors say that in late March, investigators discovered Genesis began marketing MMS as a cure for COVID-19.
A Miami federal judge in April ordered the self-styled church to stop selling the substance, but it was ignored.
The organization also has operated in Mexico, Australia, and other countries. Despite opposition from doctors and health experts, Bolivia’s congress recently legalized the use of the substance.
A federal criminal complaint filed in Miami last July charged Mark Grenon, 62, and his sons, Jonathan, 34, Jordan, 26, and Joseph, 32, with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and criminal contempt.
The federal complaint says the Grenons initially agreed to abide by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams’ order to stop selling the solution, then changed 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.”
They face a maximum of between 14 and more than 17 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)