A Florida man and three sons who used a business masquerading as a church to sell more than $1 million of a deadly bleach solution that they claimed was a “miracle” cure for Covid-19 and other diseases were each sentenced on Friday to several years in prison, federal prosecutors in Miami said.
Mark Grenon, 66, of Bradenton, Fla., and one of his sons, Joseph Grenon, 36, were sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to defraud the government, while the two other sons, Jonathan Grenon, 37, and Jordan Grenon, 29, were sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for defrauding the government and contempt of court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said in a news release.
“The Grenons poisoned thousands of people with their bogus miracle cure, which was nothing more than industrial bleach,” Michael Homer, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, said in a statement. “They targeted vulnerable people who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses and who were desperate for a cure.”
Prosecutors said that the Food and Drug Administration had received reports of people requiring hospitalizations, developing life-threatening conditions and dying after drinking the product.
“Hopefully their victims can find some solace in today’s outcome,” Mr. Homer added.
The four men, who were convicted by a jury in July and represented themselves in court, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday evening.
The sentencing capped a three-year-long case in which the Grenons were accused of selling the treatment, named “Miracle Mineral Solution,” online under the guise of a church called Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, which Mark Grenon had co-founded. The product, they claimed, could cure Covid-19, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, H.I.V.-AIDS, and leukemia among other serious diseases, prosecutors said.
The solution contained sodium chlorite and water, which becomes chlorine dioxide when ingested orally, prosecutors said. Chlorine dioxide is a strong bleach used for industrial purposes.
Beginning in 2019, the F.D.A. had warned the public against using the product, according to a criminal complaint. When the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, the Grenons started to market it as a cure for Covid-19, the authorities said.
Prosecutors filed charges against the Grenons in June 2020, and they were indicted the following year.
A judge had ordered them in 2020 to halt sales of the solution at the request of the F.D.A. in a separate civil case.
“The Genesis II Church of Healing has continued to actively place consumers at risk by peddling potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products,” said Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the FDA commissioner at the time.
Mark and Joseph Grenon had also been charged with contempt of court for failing to stop selling the solution, but the charges were dropped as a condition for their extradition by the government of Colombia, where they had fled, prosecutors said. The dropped charges resulted in the men receiving lower sentences than the other two defendants.
Prosecutors believe the Grenons created the church entity as a way to skirt government regulations.
The church’s website described itself as “nonreligious church” and Mark Grenon had said he founded the church to “legalize the use” of the dangerous treatment, prosecutors said.
“That’s why a priest can give a kid wine in church publicly and not get arrested. Because it’s a sacrament,” Mark Grenon said in a February 2020 interview with an online news program, according to an affidavit filed in the case, adding “You can’t arrest us from doing one of our sacraments.”
The Grenons marketed the product to vulnerable customers through a book, radio station and newsletter in which they cited Bible verses, according to prosecutors.
They manufactured the solution, in a “dirty rundown shed” in Jonathan Grenon’s backyard in Bradenton, Fla., prosecutors said, where investigators discovered in 2020 dozens of chemical drums containing almost 10,000 pounds of sodium chlorite powder that could produce thousands of bottles of the solution.
Investigators also seized loaded firearms, including a pump-action shotgun concealed in a custom-made violin case.
In a memorandum in support of pretrial detention, prosecutors said the family in 2020 had threated to “pick up guns” and instigate a “Waco,” alluding to the deadly 1993 siege in Texas by federal authorities of a religious sect’s compound, in response to the judge’s order that year to stop selling the solution.
The Grenons were the latest to face consequences for peddling sham Covid-19 treatment.
In August, a Utah man was arrested on federal charges for selling another “baseless” Covid-19 cure after three years on the run, the authorities said.