Authorities in Argentina are investigating a local pastor who is hawking a phony sanitizer which he claimed could cure people from coronavirus.
Héctor Aníbal Giménez was denounced last Wednesday after a video surfaced of the pastor attempting to sell a $16 bottle of gel produced with extracts of tuberose plants.
'The pastor is going to provide me with gel alcohol, with pure tuberose. What am I going to put in your hand? Gel alcohol with pure tuberose,' Giménez said during his minute-long presentation.
The pastor, who heads the Temple of Waves of Love and Peace, a church with almost 30,000 congregants in Almagro, a middle class town in Buenos Aires, promised the the bottle in his hands could miraculously heal anybody infected.
There is currently no cure or vaccine for coronavirus, which has killed more than 19,000 globally. The disease has sickened at least 430,000 in 172 countries.
Health officials in Argentina have reported seven deaths related to the coronavirus and 387 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.
'Brother, you are going to be ready to overcome the crisis, the coronavirus, and we are going to overcome death itself,' Giménez claimed.
Surrounded by a crowd of children on stage, the pastor boasted the product was extremely limited.
'I wish I could get alcohol gel for all of you. I have to put gel alcohol all over your hands. But I have only 12 of these,' Giménez claimed.
'I have only 12 of these. I want you to represent your family, your neighborhood with these 12. Those who can make a pact have to help us,' he added. 'If you come here, it is because you are going to give 1,000 pesos, so do not rush.'
The 1,000 peso price tag is equivalent to $16 in the US.
According to Infobae, Giménez has been charged with allegedly violating article 208 of the penal code which could net him 15 days to a year in jail if found guilty of illegally 'prescribing, administering or regularly applying medications, waters, electricity, hypnotism or any means intended for the treatment of people's illnesses, even free of charge.'
He tried to defend himself in a recent appearance on Argentine network America TV by saying that 'pastor Giménez does not sell alcohol [sanitizer], I preach the word of God which allows me to reach 1 million Argentines.'
Giménez then added that the parishioners did not buy the phony gel, instead they made a charitable contribution to his church before bolting from the live television interview.
Authorities around the world have warned consumers against buying into phony cures for coronavirus.
The state of Missouri is suing disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker for selling a fake coronavirus cure on his website and show.
Attorney General Eric S Schmitt named Bakker and his production company, Morningside Church Productions, as the defendants in the suit which was filed in the state's circuit court of Stone County.
Both Bakker and the church are based in the state.
The suit states that the defendants 'violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by falsely promising to consumers that Silver Solution can cure, eliminate, kill, or deactivate coronavirus and/or boost elderly consumers' immune system and help keep them healthy when there is, in fact, no vaccine, pill, potion or other product available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).'
During a February 12 episode of the show with guest 'naturapathic doctor' Sherill Sellman, Bakker posited that the Silver Solution sold on the show's website would be effective against the coronavirus.
Bakker - an ardent Trump supporter - asks guest Sherill Sellman if the solution will work against the virus, to which she responds: 'Let's say it hasn't been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it's been rested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours'.
The suit calls for a temporary restraining order against Bakker and the production company.
It states that the defendants 'solicited the business of Missouri and non-Missouri consumers to purchase Silver Solution as a product to "support your immune system", "speed up natural processes that have positive effects on the body", and "resonating at just the right frequency"... to... "disrupt foreign elements without disturbing the body's natural environment.'
The suit mentions that Sellman and Bakker's exchange was referenced on the show's website, where the Solution was sold.
Missouri is the first state to sue Bakker in connection to Silver Solution, with the suit mentioning an Food and Drug Administration (FDA) letter from last week that slammed the company and others for selling unapproved coronavirus drugs.
'The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health,' the FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., said in the letter. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one.
'We understand consumers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and urge them to talk to their health care providers, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness. We will continue to aggressively pursue those that place the public health at risk and hold bad actors accountable.'
According to Brazilian newspaper UOL, agents with the Minas Gerias Civil Police arrested a 38-year-old man who was selling $6 counterfeit medicine bottles that promised the cure of COVID-19.
The illicit homemade drug contained an extract from a plant named geranium.
In a separate operation, police in Sao Paulo dismantled a clandestine warehouse where fake hand sanitizers were produced and sold for $2. Cops arrested a worker and the factory owner.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.