California Man Accused of Defrauding the Federal Government Over $100,000 in Unemployment Benefits During COVID-19
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal court in Utah has entered an injunction halting the sale of a fraudulent coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment, the Department of Justice announced today.
In response to a civil complaint and accompanying court papers filed on April 27, 2020, in Salt Lake City, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a temporary restraining order against defendants Gordon Pedersen of Cedar Hills, Utah, and his companies, My Doctor Suggests LLC and GP Silver LLC. The civil complaint alleges that the defendants are fraudulently promoting and selling various silver products for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. The court’s order temporarily enjoins the defendants from continuing to sell or distribute their silver products for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease, including COVID-19.
A separate court order temporarily freezes defendants’ assets in order to preserve the court’s ability to grant effective final relief and to maintain the status quo. A hearing on the government’s request for a preliminary injunction is set for May 12, 2020.
“The Department of Justice will take swift action to protect consumers from those who would recklessly exploit this public health crisis by offering phony cure-alls for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We work closely with our partners at the Food and Drug Administration and will move quickly to shut down schemes that promote and sell unlawful products during this pandemic.”
“Even in a time of great uncertainty, there are at least two unchanging realities. There are those who would unlawfully exploit our vulnerabilities, and there are those who will hold such parties accountable,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah. “COVID-19 is a dangerous disease, and American consumers must have accurate and reliable information as they make important health decisions.”
The complaint alleges that, beginning in early 2020, the defendants conducted a scheme to defraud consumers throughout the United States, promoting and selling silver products based on fraudulent claims of protection against, and treatment for, COVID-19. According to the complaint, the defendants have made a wide variety of false and misleading claims touting silver products as a preventative for COVID-19, including that having silver in the bloodstream will “usher” any coronavirus out of 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 FDA will continue to help ensure those who place profits above the public health during the COVID-19 pandemic are stopped,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “We are fully committed to working with the Department of Justice to take appropriate action against those jeopardizing the health of Americans by offering and distributing products with unproven claims to prevent or treat COVID-19.”
The enforcement action is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel A. Ferre of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and Trial Attorneys Speare I. Hodges and Sarah Williams of the Department of Justice, Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch. The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and Office of the Chief Counsel is also assisting with the case.
The claims made in the complaint are allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government must prove to receive a permanent injunction against the defendants.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ut. For information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to stop illegal COVID-19-related activity, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, consumers may visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO websites.
The public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at email@example.com.