Members of a Florida family who claimed they had a "miracle" cure for COVID-19 that contained a toxic bleach were sentenced to federal prison on Friday, the Department of Justice said.
Mark Grenon, 66, and his three sons -- Jonathan Grenon, 37, Jordan Grenon, 29, and Joseph Grenon, 36 -- were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by distributing an unapproved and misbranded drug, the DOJ said.
The federal jury also found Jonathan and Jordan Grenon guilty of contempt of court following a trial this summer.
Jonathan and Jordan Grenon were sentenced to 151 months -- about 12 1/2 years -- in federal prison, while Mark and Joseph Grenon were sentenced to five years, the DOJ said.
Federal prosecutors said the men manufactured, produced and sold a "dangerous product" they claimed would cure COVID-19. Their "Miracle Mineral Solution" -- or MMS -- was sold under the guise of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, according to prosecutors.
MMS contained sodium chlorite and water, "which, when ingested orally, became chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleach typically used for industrial water treatment or bleaching textiles, pulp, and paper," the DOJ said in a press release.
During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury photos and video of a shed in Jonathan Grenon's backyard in Bradenton, Florida, that had dozens of blue chemical drums containing nearly 10,000 pounds of sodium chlorite powder, with labels warning the product was toxic and harmful if swallowed.
The Grenons sold MMS throughout the United States and, before marketing it as a COVID-19 cure, claimed it would cure other diseases and disorders, including leukemia, HIV, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, federal prosecutors said. MMS was not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, "or any other use," the DOJ said.
Since 2010, the FDA has warned consumers not to purchase or use MMS, and that drinking it could cause severe reactions.
"The FDA has received reports of consumers who have suffered from severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure after drinking these products," the FDA said.
In some cases, people developed life-threatening conditions and even died after drinking MMS, prosecutors said.
The church, co-founded by Mark Grenon, was not affiliated with any religion. Mark Grenon "repeatedly acknowledged" that he founded Genesis to "legalize" MMS and avoid going to jail, the DOJ said. The Grenons received more than $1 million from selling MMS, which could only be acquired by donating to the church, according to the DOJ.
Jonathan and Jordan Grenon's contempt of court charge stems from a civil case the DOJ filed over MMS. The federal government sued the defendants and Genesis II Church of Health and Healing to halt their distribution of MMS, which the brothers "willfully violated," the DOJ said.
During the civil trial, the two threatened to take up arms against the presiding judge and promised another "Waco," the DOJ said -- a reference to the 1993 standoff between federal agents and members of an apocalyptic religious sect called the Branch Davidians, who had barricaded themselves in their compound outside Waco, Texas.