SALT LAKE CITY – Utah resident Gordon H. Pedersen has been indicted for posing as a medical doctor to sell a baseless treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). According to the indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City late last week, Pedersen fraudulently promoted and sold ingestible silver-based products as a cure for COVID-19 despite having no evidence that his products could treat or cure the disease.
Pedersen is also alleged to have claimed to be a physician and worn a stethoscope and white lab coat in videos and photos posted on the Internet to further his alleged fraud scheme.
In a related matter, the company Pedersen previously co-owned, My Doctor Suggests LLC (My Doctor Suggests), has agreed to plead guilty to a one-count criminal information related to its false and misleading marketing of ingestible silver products as a drug treatment for COVID-19. The company has severed ties with Pedersen and agreed to cooperate in his prosecution. The criminal information filed Thursday in the United States District Court for the District of Utah is part of a global resolution with My Doctor Suggests that also includes a civil consent order requiring the company to cease fraudulently labeling its products and to issue full refunds to affected consumers.
“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. 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,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said.
“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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan Davis. “We will continue to work closely with our partners at the Food and Drug Administration to quickly shut down schemes to promote and sell unlawful products during this pandemic.”
The indictment against Pedersen alleges that, beginning in early 2020, he conducted a scheme to defraud consumers throughout the United States, by falsely presenting himself as a medical doctor and promoting and selling silver products on the Internet based on fraudulent claims of protection against, and treatment for, COVID-19, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
According to the criminal information filed Friday, My Doctor Suggests made false and misleading claims that the company’s silver-based products could be ingested to protect against COVID-19 and the products lacked the necessary directions for use as a drug product. The information also allege My Doctor Suggests operated without properly registering with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is anticipated My Doctor Suggests will plead guilty to a single misdemeanor count of distributing misbranded drug products in interstate commerce in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
“The FDA is actively monitoring the marketplace for fraudulent products represented as preventing, curing, or treating COVID-19. Americans expect and deserve treatments that are safe, effective and meet appropriate standards, and the agency will continue to bring to justice those who place profits above the public health during this pandemic,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that we will take action against those who jeopardize the health of Americans while taking advantage of a crisis.”
The Department of Justice previously sought and obtained an emergency court order in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, alleging in its civil complaint that My Doctor Suggests worked with two co-defendants, Pedersen and his company GP Silver LLC, to fraudulently promote and sell various silver products for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. Subsequent orders temporarily enjoined Pedersen, GP Silver LLC, and My Doctor Suggests from distributing silver products as well as representing they could cure, mitigate, treat, or otherwise prevent COVID-19 or any other disease. The recent consent order permanently enjoins My Doctor Suggests LLC from making these representations, and it provides a notification and refund process for deceived consumers.
The consent order specifically requires that My Doctor Suggests LLC permanently stop any fraudulent promotions, clearly and conspicuously disavow any statement that its silver products treat or prevent COVID-19 in future marketing materials and consumer notices, implement robust compliance measures to prevent a reoccurrence, and provide full refunds upon request to any customer who purchased its silver products under fraudulent pretenses. Affected customers can contact My Doctor Suggests LLC at (1-866- 660-9868) or email@example.com.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The criminal action is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Strain from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah with assistance from Trial Attorney Matt Lash from the Department of Justice, Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and James Smith from the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel. The criminal case was investigated by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the FBI’s Utah Field Office.
The civil enforcement action was handled by Trial Attorneys Speare I. Hodges and Sarah Williams of the Department of Justice, Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel A. Ferre, with support from FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
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 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at firstname.lastname@example.org.