October 9, 2023: Florida conmen who sold industrial bleach as a COVID cure sentenced to federal prison

This week: The leaders of the “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing” received a cumulative 34 years in prison. A NYC pharmacist pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering after selling black market HIV drugs. Pill press operations were busted in NYC and Rhode Island. 

Major Stories

Florida men who used a church as a front to sell chlorine dioxide to vulnerable patients were sentenced in federal court.

Four members of the Grenon family were sentenced to a cumulative 34 years in prison for selling tens of thousands of bottles of toxic industrial bleach as a fake COVID-19 cure through the “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing.” When COVID-19 emerged, the Grenons had been selling “Miracle Mineral Solution” (MMS) as a cure-all for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other conditions for a decade. The substance, which has been banned in six countries, can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure and acute liver failure.

The Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition warned members that licensed and unlicensed drug wholesalers had been offering to sell distributors and pharmacies Ozempic, semaglutide and tirzepatide at deeply discounted prices. Some buyers have not received the medicine they paid for; others have received drugs diverted from foreign countries or counterfeits.

The label on this barrel of sodium chlorite powder seized from the Grenons warns that the product is toxic. (Image: U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida.) 

International News

Reports of counterfeits in India, Germany and Zimbabwe.

India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation reported finding diethylene glycol (DEG) or ethylene glycol (EG) in two children’s medicines made in a factory in Gujarat. EG and DEG contamination in cough syrups made in India and Indonesia killed more than 300 children in 2022 and 2023.

Novo Nordisk India warned of counterfeit versions of Wegovy being sold online, even though it isn’t yet approved for sale in India. The company hasn't sought legal action against counterfeiters because of the difficulty of tracking them down.

Authorities in Freiburg, Germany have joined a world wide chorus of regulators warning residents about the problem of counterfeit Ozempic.

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe revoked the licenses and permits of 10 companies that have been illegally distributing counterfeit and unapproved codeine cough syrups as drugs of abuse.

Fake semaglutide products, including this fake Ozempic pen found at a U.S. pharmacy in June, have proliferated in 2023.   (Images from Novo Nordisk's press release about the counterfeit.)

Domestic News

A New York pharmacist pleaded guilty to Medicare and Medicaid fraud after collecting full-price reimbursements for black market HIV medicines. Pill press machines were seized in New York City and Rhode Island.

Weak pill press regulation enables criminals to flood the U.S. with counterfeit pills made of fentanyl and other dangerous substances. Read PSM's 2019 report about the problem and  our 2021 update.

A New York City pharmacy owner, Nerik Ilyayev, pleaded guilty to using a pharmacy in Manhattan and another in Queens to defraud Medicare and Medicaid by billing them for legitimate HIV medicines while he was dispensing black market medicines from illegal sources to his patients. Ilyayev also distributed black market HIV treatments to other pharmacies, and submitted fraudulent claims to automobile insurance providers. Mukhiddin Kadirov, who laundered money for Ilyayev, also pleaded guilty. The Justice Department estimates that the men made over $6 million on these schemes.

Federal agents and police raided an alleged fentanyl pill mill in the Bronx, seizing fentanyl, other drugs and four pill press machines, one of which was disassembled.

Law enforcement in Rhode Island seized two commercial pill presses, fentanyl pills, almost six kilos of fentanyl and other supplies used in the production of fentanyl pills during the search of a storage unit in Pawtucket.