July 29 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors have charged a Utah man with masquerading as a doctor to sell fake cures for the deadly and infectious coronavirus online.
In an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Friday, Gordon H. Pedersen has been accused of promoting silver-based products as COVID-19 cures in spite of there being no evidence to support his fraudulent claims, the Justice Department said in a release Tuesday. Prosecutors also accuse Pedersen of posing as a doctor to sell the fake medicinal products by wearing a stethoscope and a white lab coat in promotional videos and photos published on the Internet.
"The Department of Justice will take swift action to protect consumers from those who offer phony cure-alls for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19," Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan Davis said in a statement.
Prosecutors accuse Pedersen of peddling the products starting early this year shortly after the virus emerged.
In connection to the charges, My Doctor Suggests, the company Pedersen previously co-owned, agreed to a one-count criminal information charge over its promotion of the ingestible silver products as a COVID-19 drug treatment.
A Utah court ordered the company in late April to stop selling the products in question in response to a Justice Department civil complaint while also freezing Pedersen's assets to preserve the court's abilities to grant relief to the defrauded customers seeking refunds.
Some of the false claims the company was alleged to have made include that having silver in one's bloodstream will "usher" the coronavirus from the body and that "it has been proven that Alkaline Structured Silver will destroy all forms of viruses, it will protect people from the coronavirus," the complaint said.
My Doctor Suggests has since ended its relationship with Pedersen and is working with prosecutors, the Justice Department said.
Federal prosecutors have previously sought and been granted orders enjoining Pedersen, GP Silver LLC and My Doctor Suggests from distributing silver products as well as representing them as cures or treatments for the coronavirus or any other disease.
"In addition to the imposition of a civil restraining order that successfully shut down fraudulent claims of a COVID-19 cure-all, Mr. Pedersen now faces criminal charges for his conduct," U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah said in a statement. "The federal felony allegations are serious, especially against the backdrop of this pandemic where Americans are yearning for effective relief. If proven, this conduct reveals a scheme where greed was a higher priority than conveying truth to consumers."
The Trump administration has sought to prosecute those who attempt to criminally take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and in March, the Justice Department won its first legal action against a company fraudulently posing to sell a cure for the coronavirus online.
Earlier that month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr signed an executive order directing attorney's offices across the country to "prioritize the detection, investigation and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic."