ABC v MMS: from Humble beginnings to 20/20 investigation
I guess you could call it Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Trudeau: tonight's episode of ABC News' weekly show 20/20 will feature a segment on a fringe "church," the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, which has come under fire for pushing a "miracle cure" called MMS.
Here, from the ABC News web site, are articles related to the story that will be on tonight's 20/20, with Brian Ross reporting (10 p.m. Eastern Time, 9 Central).
Judging from the noise on Facebook so far, it would appear that the villagers are surging forth with their pitchforks and torches. But they are not, as it turns out, pursuing Jim Humble or other purveyors of this "miracle cure." Instead they're after ABC, and Brian Ross in particular, whom they are accusing of being biased, deceptive, sensationalist, evil, unscientific, and (of course!) part of the Big Pharma plot to keep people from accessing real cures for horrid diseases. Take a look at the discussions here and here, for instance. The pro-MMS camp seems to be out-shouting the skeptics. They are a very passionately devoted group of folks, many of whom claim to have experienced the healing powers of MMS firsthand.
And Jim himself is leading the villagers, particularly on Facebook, it seems.
I'm no stranger to this saga. I've written about Jim Humble, the main perpetrator of the MMS scampire and founder of that ersatz "church," a couple of times on this Whirled. (My favorite doctor blogger, Orac, aka Dr. David Gorski at Respectful Insolence, has also written about Humble and his MMS "cures" a few times.)
So what's the deal about Kevin Trudeau and those six degrees and so forth? Well, maybe it isn't even six degrees.
Humble first captured my interest because among many other things, he is a vanity book publisher who publishes the German-language works of the deranged "Dr." Leonard Coldwell, the former Bernd Klein of Germany and an all-too-frequent guest on this Whirled. (Coldwell unsuccessfully sued me last year for writing about him.) Humble also publishes or distributes the works of other quacks, including works by the late Hulda Clark, a supposed expert on cancer cures, who died of...I hate to say it... cancer. Through his German-language web site, Jim Humble Verlag, he not only peddles books and other info-frauducts but also sells a slew of supplements.
And Coldwell, as those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time almost certainly know, first caught my interest because he is a former cohort of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, whom I've written about numerous times and whose shenanigans have also been previously documented by ABC News. Coldwell was a big part of Trudeau's scammy Global Information Network (GIN) until he got fired in spring of 2012. Ever since then he has been a rabid critic of Trudeau.
Here is one previous post where I wrote about Jim Humble; the part about him is actually at the end, in a May 2015 update. It was mostly in the context of my earlier speculations about a "Heroes of Cancer" European book tour that Coldwell had claimed he was going to go on along with two much better-known cancer quacks, Stanislaw Burzynski and Tullio Simoncini. In fact that "book tour" turned out to be a "health congress" (frauduct expo) in Kassel, Germany, sponsored by none other than Jim Humble. The "congress" was originally scheduled to be held on different dates in several cities in Europe as well as the UK, but most of the events were cancelled, most likely because of skeptics' protests and trouble with health authorities. (And according to a very recent report on the ABC News site, one of the "bishops" of the Genesis II "Church" in Ireland has been convicted on charges related to pushing the MMS frauduct.)
Coldwell, who as you probably also know is not and never has been a real doctor of any sort, claims to have "the only answer to cancer" and he boasts that he has a 92.3 percent cancer cure rate. He has gushed about his close friendship with Jim Humble, whom he considers to be a fellow warrior for truth: one who, like Coldwell, is continually being unjustly hounded and pursued by the medical establishment, Big Pharma, the New World Order and of course the evil mainstream media. Or so goes the "help, help, I'm being repressed!" narrative so fiercely embraced by the Brave Maverick Doctors/Healers and their loyal fans.
Phony churches offer no sanctuary
Like Jim Humble, Leonard Coldwell also had a "church" for a while, the Church of Inner Healing, LLC, which, in the spirit of Jim Humble et al., he apparently used to protect himself from liability for doling out medical advice. The business is now listed on the business data sites as "no longer active," or "dissolved," though the "church" is still listed as a chartered member of Universal Ministries (see South Carolina, Mount Pleasant on this link). As well, Coldwell has numerous other LLCs and other types of businesses both in the US and his native Germany, so he presumably has plenty of ways to funnel his money and avoid not only tax liability but also legal liability for his fake-doctorin' shtick.
As for Humble's Genesis II "Church," here's what one of the ABC reports has to say:
Indeed, another MMS peddler, 45-year-old Louis Daniel Smith of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced on October 27 to more than four years in prison. The Department of Justice web site says:It would be a violation of federal law to sell such a “miracle cure,” but ["Archbishop" Mark] Grenon claims he is protected because he is part of a church and the “miracle cure” is a sacrament that is not being sold but is offered for a “donation.”
“It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card to sell snake oil,” said [Dr. Steven] Novella [of the Yale School of Medicine]. “You make a donation to the church and you get it as a sacrament? Who really believes that?”
Federal prosecutors have already convicted one distributor of the “miracle cure” who shipped the solution through a company he formed.
And officials say the claims of religious freedom will not prevent prosecutions for sales of such cures.
“The cloak of religion does not protect illegal conduct from prosecution,” said Ben Mizer, the U.S. principal deputy assistant attorney general, in an interview with “20/20.”
After a seven-day trial in June, a jury convicted Smith of one count of conspiracy to commit multiple crimes, three counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead and one count of fraudulently smuggling merchandise into the United States. Evidence at trial showed that Smith operated a business called “Project GreenLife” (PGL) from 2007 to 2011. PGL sold a product called “Miracle Mineral Supplement,” or MMS, over the Internet. 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...
... According to the evidence presented at trial, Smith created phony “water purification” and “wastewater treatment” businesses in order to obtain sodium chlorite and ship his MMS without being detected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The government also presented evidence that Smith hid evidence from FDA inspectors and destroyed evidence while law enforcement agents were executing search warrants.So it would appear that the Church of the Holy Bleach has its first real martyr, even though Smith reportedly was not a church member.
As for Jim Humble, it appears that ABC had a "contentious encounter" with him. Here's more from the article quoted directly above:
Yup. And ol' Jim just happens to sell a bunch of those "important health tools" through his online store, and through no telling how many other sites, organizations and individuals in no telling how many countries. So if I were you, I wouldn't spend too much time weeping for Humble because those other "church leaders" in the U.S. are screwing him out of frauduct proceeds. My guess is that, notwithstanding his cries of poverty, he is doing just fine on his own.Asked about allegations that he is more a con man than a religious leader, Humble said they “ain’t true.”
He also said he is living in a small apartment, barely making ends meet because other church leaders in the United States have failed to send him his “cut” of the money raised from training seminars.
In a newsletter sent to his followers after the “20/20” encounter, Humble backed off his claims that the church sacrament cures any disease.
“Today, I say MMS cures nothing!” he wrote. Now the founder of the church, who spent the last dozen years promoting MMS as a cure-all, says MMS is just one of a number of “important health tools, to combat the ill effects of poor foods, and chemicals that make us sick.”
My hope is that ABC -- or someone! -- will dig a little deeper into Jim Humble's offshore scams and hustles as well as the U.S.-based ones; I think that if they were to do so they would be able to scare up some evidence that Humble is far from the poor man he claims to be. My further hope is that maybe they'll snare Humble's pudgy little pal Coldwell in their investigative nets as well. That investigation is long, long overdue.
ABC, are you listening?