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Feds charge Florida man, sons with selling fake virus cure

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man and his three sons are facing federal charges that they illegally sold a bleachlike chemical mixture as a miracle cure for the new coronavirus and other diseases, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The substance marketed as Miracle Mineral Solution was sold nationwide through an entity called the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, Florida, according to a criminal complaint. A Miami federal judge in April ordered the self-styled church to stop selling the substance, but it was ignored.

Charged in the criminal complaint are Mark Grenon, 62, and his sons, Jonathan Grenon, 34, Jordan Grenon, 26, and Joseph Grenon, 32. They are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and criminal contempt.

Records in Miami federal court Wednesday did not list attorneys for any of the Grenons. They face a maximum of between 14 and more than 17 years in prison if convicted of all charges. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the solution sold by the Grenons becomes a bleach when ingested that is typically used for such things as treating textiles, industrial water, pulp and paper.

Authorities said drinking 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 used. But the Grenons marketed it as not only a coronavirus cure but also a cure for cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and AIDS, according to the complaint.

“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,” Miami U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said in a news release. "We will not sit idly by as individuals purposefully violate court orders and put the public in danger.”

The complaint says the Grenons initially agreed to abide by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams' order that they 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."

Florida is one of the nation's hot spots for the coronavirus. Almost 10,000 confirmed cases were added Wednesday, bringing its total since March 1 to nearly 224,000. Almost 4,000 people have died, including 48 reported by the state Wednesday.

The state shows that 41 of the state's 208 hospital intensive care units are at capacity and another 49 are at 90% capacity or greater. The list includes hospitals with large ICUs such as Tampa General, Baptist Hospital of Miami and UF Health Jacksonville.

Some hospital systems say they have the ability to add beds if needed.

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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