Gordon Pedersen says his ingestible silver products can “destroy” the coronavirus and help protect people from contracting the deadly illness. The Department of Justice says that is flat-out wrong and has taken legal action to stop him.
Pedersen, who claims to hold four doctor’s degrees, has appeared in several YouTube videos and podcasts since the coronavirus outbreak began, wearing a white lab coat and stethoscope, and touting the seemingly extraordinary benefits of silver gels, aerosols, and lozenges.
“If you have the silver in you, when the virus arrives, the silver can isolate and eliminate that virus,” he said in a March 26 podcast.
But in documents unsealed in the U.S. District Court in Utah on Tuesday, prosecutors sought to slap a temporary restraining order on Pedersen, arguing his conduct was “reckless and harmful” to consumers and that Pedersen knew his silver products could not cure the coronavirus.
Judge David Barlow granted a temporary freeze on Pedersen’s assets, as well as those of his companies, arguing that any harm to his business during the freeze was “greatly outweighed by the threat to the health and safety of individuals” using the products.
The legal action, which has not been reported before, represents a new push by the Justice Department to crack down on COVID-related frauds. More than eight criminal and civil cases have been brought in the last two weeks alone against scammers claiming that everything from vitamin C infusions to ozone therapy can either prevent or cure COVID-19, despite there being no known cure for the deadly virus.
The Justice Department did not comment specifically on this case but Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Civil Division said they are working with the FDA to “quickly shut down” schemes that exploit the pandemic by offering “phony cure-alls for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.”
Pedersen’s publicist, Terry Warren, told The Daily Beast that Pedersen was “shocked, as all the statements he has made are supported by scientific documents.” He pointed to a March 24 press release in which Pedersen said he wouldn’t suggest silver could cure the coronavirus, only that it could be “a first line of defense.” Shortly after The Daily Beast’s inquiry, Pedersen’s website became password-protected.
Pedersen, who prosecutors say is not a licensed medical provider in Utah, has been peddling cure-all silver gels and liquids for years. According to court records, he was fired from his position as a promotional consultant for American Biotech Labs in 2011 after FDA inspectors found the company was making unsubstantiated claims about the silver products’ ability to cure diseases.
Since then, he has sold products through his own mail-order businesses, My Doctor Suggests and GP Silver, with prices running up to $299.95 for a gallon of their flagship “Silver Solution,” a mix of water, sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda), and extract from silver wire. In 2018, records show the state of Utah cited him for unauthorized practice of medicine and told him to stop holding himself out as a “naturopathic doctor.”
Prosecutors argue that didn’t stop Pedersen from “seizing” on the outbreak of coronavirus, promoting his products as being able to both prevent and cure the virus.
FDA Special Agent Virginia Keys wrote in an affidavit that, according to interviews with Pedersen’s manufacturers and a supplier, business has boomed since January. A company that makes labels for the silver products said they’d received more orders in the past two months than in all of 2019, while another company that fulfills and ships orders said it was receiving $20,000 every two weeks from My Doctor Suggests.
As coronavirus travel bans were in full swing, prosecutors say Pedersen boasted about going to Europe on a cruise ship—into the “lion’s den,” he said—and protecting himself by drinking liquid silver, using silver gel on his hands, and putting silver liquid in his CPAP machine. In a February press release cited in the court filing, he claimed silver products “will destroy all forms of viruses.”
“I put the gel on all of my skin that was exposed, and it was a real benefit to me because I knew I had a barrier layer of silver anywhere my skin was exposed,” he said in an interview with LATalkRadio on April 14, according to the filing.
In a 238-page motion, federal prosecutors argued that Pedersen knew his claims were bogus because disclaimers on his websites said statements weren’t FDA approved and products “are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.”
Keys said she made an undercover purchase from My Doctor Suggests of a bottle of Silver Solution, a bottle of Silver Mouth Wash, and two packages of Silver Gel Extra Strength. Her order came with an email message from Pedersen saying silver resonates at a frequency inside the body that attracts viruses, which attach themselves to the silver and pass through the waste system.
She wrote in the affidavit that she was not only concerned that Pedersen’s public pronouncements on the purported benefits of silver may cause customers to waste their money.
“I am further concerned that such statements create a dangerous false sense of security and may lead consumers to forego traditional medical treatment if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, and ignore potentially life-saving guidance from public health officials, who advise travel restrictions and social distancing to avoid exposure to the virus,” she wrote.
“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.”