Louis Daniel Smith and his wife Karis Delong from the Oregon city of Ashland operated a company on the Internet called Project GreenLife for seven years. They were primarily selling a chemical substance called sodium chlorite as a miracle cure for a long list of serious health conditions, such as cancer, malaria and HIV. They advised their customers to mix it with water and citric acid to form chlorine dioxide (an industrial bleach used in e. g. pulp mills) and then drink it.
So what did they do? They smuggled sodium chlorite into the United States from Canada, wrote false invoices, tried to masquerade their product as wastewater treatment to avoid getting caught by the FDA and the customs officers, putting falsely branded chemical substances into interstate trade in a feeble effort to defraud consumers. To make matters even worse, they also hid and destroyed evidence from the police during a search warrant.
He was convicted in May on several of the charges and risked a total of 34 years in prison.
What is sodium chlorite / chlorine dioxide / miracle mineral solution (MMS)?
According to a recent press release from the U. S. Department of Justice:
MMS is a mixture of sodium chlorite and water. Sodium chlorite is an industrial chemical used as a pesticide, for hydraulic fracturing and for wastewater treatment. Sodium chlorite cannot be sold for human consumption, and suppliers of the chemical include a warning sheet stating that it can cause potentially fatal side effects if swallowed. When mixed with water and citric acid, it makes chlorine dioxide, another kind of bleach.
In other words, these people are promoting the usage of industrial bleach and recommending that people drink it to magically cure their dangerous and potentially life-threatening diseases.
What did Louis Daniel Smith believe that MMS would do?
Was this a case of a seller simply not knowing or understanding the dangers of the product he sold? No, quite the opposite: Smith had full knowledge of the serious side-effects the treatment could give people who drank it:
The government presented evidence that Smith instructed consumers to combine MMS with citric acid to create chlorine dioxide, add water and drink the resulting mixture. Chlorine dioxide is a potent agent used to bleach textiles, among other industrial applications. Chlorine dioxide is a severe respiratory and eye irritant that can cause nausea, diarrhea and dehydration. Smith provided instructions for use of his product including that nausea, diarrhea and vomiting were all signs that the miracle cure was working. The instructions also stated that despite a risk of possible brain damage, the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women or infants who were seriously ill.
Let us read that one more time: “Smith provided instructions […] that nausea, diarrhea and vomiting were all signs that the miracle cure was working” and “despite a risk of possible brain damage, the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women or infants who were seriously ill”. This proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Smith knew that this stuff was dangerous. Despite that, he recommended it to pregnant women and small infants. He even went so far as to lie about the side-effects by claiming that it was nothing dangerous and rather evidence that the “treatment” was working.
What was the punishment?
After the dust had settled, Smith received a prison sentence of 51 months (four years and 3 months) and a subsequent probation time of three years:
Louis Daniel Smith, 45, was sentenced by Chief Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson of the Eastern District of Washington to serve 51 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release
There were also more good news: some of his co-conspirators also experienced the long arm of the law:
Before trial, three of Smith’s alleged co-conspirators, Chris Olson, Tammy Olson and Karis DeLong, Smith’s wife, pleaded guilty to introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. Chris Olson, along with alleged co-conspirators Matthew Darjanny and Joseph Lachnit, testified at trial that Smith was the leader of PGL.
Although it does not say so specifically in the press release, it might be the case that the three people testifying made plea bargaining in return for testifying. This could mean that a total of six key individuals in the U.S. MMS industry might now be off the streets for several years.
Bleach quackery in the United States: the larger context
Around the same time that the situation with Louis Daniel Smith and his companions unraveled, the attorney general of the state of Illinois made another big U.S. bleach seller, Kerri Rivera, sign an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance were she promised to stop selling chlorine dioxide (or related chemicals) and stop promoting the product.
If we think of bleach sellers in the United States as a deck of cards, this means that the Queen and Knight of Bleach has now been shut down by the government. Yet, the King of Bleach is still at large. His name is Jim Humble and his website is still operational. But perhaps not for long if the streak of successes against bleach quacks continues.