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Colombia arrests US men accused of selling fake COVID cure

In this photo released by Colombia's Prosecutor's Press Office, a police officer and a soldier flank Mark Grennon, second from left, and his son Joseph Grennon, during a raid in Santa Marta, Colombia, on Aug. 11, 2020. (Colombia's Prosecutor's Press Office via AP)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Colombian officials say they have arrested two Florida men wanted in the United States on charges they illegally sold a bleachlike chemical as a miracle cure for the new coronavirus and other diseases.

    The Colombian prosecutor's office said Tuesday that Mark and Joseph Grennon were arrested in the beach town of Santa Marta, and were shipping their "Miracle Mineral Solution" -- chlorine dioxide -- from there to clients in the United States, Colombia and Africa.

    It said seven Americans had died from using the substance.

    Mark Grenon is the archbishop of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, based in Bradenton, Florida, which is centered on use of the toxic chemical as a supposed sacrament it claims can cure a vast variety of illnesses ranging from cancer to autism to malaria and now 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 use of the substance.

    A federal criminal complaint filed in 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.

    Records in Miami federal court last month 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 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.

    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."

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