In April, when President Donald Trump mused whether injecting patients with disinfectant could kill the coronavirus, perhaps no one was more thrilled about the suggestion than Mark Grenon.
Grenon runs a fake church with his sons in Florida that sells people a life-threatening toxic bleach product he calls the Miracle Mineral Solution, federal officials say, which he fraudulently claims cures everything from COVID-19 to cancer.
“Trump has got the MMS and all the info!!! Things are happening folks!” Grenon, 62, wrote on Facebook on April 24, linking to Trump’s comments. “Lord help others to see the Truth!”
Grenon had made $500,000 in 2019 alone selling his solutions to thousands of vulnerable, sick people across the country, according to the Justice Department, even though the Food and Drug Administration had warned for years that people could die if they drank MMS products, which are essentially bleach.
On Wednesday, Grenon and his three sons — Jonathan, Joseph and Jordan — were charged in the Southern District of Florida with conspiracy to defraud the United States and deliver misbranded drugs. The criminal charges come on the heels of civil action the FDA took against the Grenons and their “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing” in April, when a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking them from selling MMS. Because they allegedly continued to promote it and sell it anyway, the four men are also charged with criminal contempt.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida didn’t offer details about the reported deaths linked to the products, saying the FDA has “received reports of people requiring hospitalizations, developing life-threatening conditions, and dying after drinking MMS.”
“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,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said in a statement. “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.”
The Grenons could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday night.
The case is part of the DOJ and FDA’s crackdown on coronavirus-related scams profiting off fears during the pandemic by promising fraudulent cure-alls or immunity when there is in fact no cure or vaccine.
According to the criminal complaint, Mark Grenon founded the company as a church in 2010 “for the express purpose of cloaking their unlawful conduct” by framing all of their activities as protected religious freedoms.
In one interview in February, according to the complaint, Grenon explained that he told his followers in a seminar in 2010, ” ‘Listen, we’re going to start a church.’ … And man, they flipped out. Everybody hated the idea. And we said, you’ve got to do this, folks, or you’re going to go to jail.”
The family business, which has set up chapters across the globe, pulled in around $32,000 in profit every each month last year, selling travel-sized bottles of MMS for a required “donation” of $40 and large bulk packages of the fake miracle cure for a “donation” of $900.
Profits soared in March, when Genesis started falsely claiming that Miracle Mineral Solution could cure the novel coronavirus, too. They raked in roughly $123,000 that month, a nearly 400% increase in revenue, according to the feds.
“The Coronavirus is curable! Do you believe it? You better!” one Genesis newsletter said, with dosing instructions for “wiping out” the virus, according to the complaint.
A judge issued a temporary restraining order on April 17, leading Grenon to claim during a broadcast days later that he had mailed a letter to Trump about Genesis and MMS, asking him to “intervene” in his case.
On April 23, when Trump wondered about injecting disinfectant during a coronavirus daily briefing, Grenon suggested that the president knew about MMS, as the Guardian reported, although it’s not clear that Trump ever read or received any letter from Grenon.
“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during a coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
Trump claimed the next day that the remarks were sarcastic. But Grenon was already mobilizing his followers.
On Facebook after the briefing, Grenon urged people to contact the White House.
“Everyone write the President with your testimonies,” he wrote. “They speak the loudest! The fake news hates the Truth!”
Around the same time, according to the complaint, Grenon and his sons wrote a threatening letter to U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams, who issued the temporary restraining order. He said that his church would resist her order as an act of “civil disobedience” but that “the 2nd Amendment is there in case it can’t be done peaceably.” In a later podcast, Grenon warned Williams that she could be “taken out.”
The Grenon family is representing themselves in the civil case.
“The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has actively and deliberately placed consumers at risk with their fraudulent Miracle Mineral Solution,” Catherine Hermsen, assistant commissioner of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, said in a statement. “The FDA will continue our efforts to make sure these and other like-minded sellers do not jeopardize the health of Americans during this pandemic and in the future.”