Fake doctor peddling fraudulent COVID-19 ‘cure’ arrested after a three-year manhunt

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published August 25, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • In 2020, Gordon H. Pedersen posed as a fake doctor and sold a COVID-19 ‘cure’ made from structural alkaline silver. When the feds found out, he was requested to appear in court that August. Instead, Pedersen dodged authorities and sent them on a manhunt that lasted until this month when he was arrested.

  • Pedersen was charged with seven felonies, including mail, wire fraud, and selling misbranded drugs across state lines with the intent to defraud and mislead.

  • Pedersen also alleged that he was not a US citizen but rather a “living soul.” He told authorities that Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci created the COVID-19 virus as a “war exercise.”

A 63-year-old Utah resident, Gordon H. Pedersen, was arrested last week after running from federal law enforcement since August 2020. A Department of Justice (DOJ) press release from 2020 stated that Pedersen was originally indicted after posing as a medical doctor and fraudulently peddling ingestible silver-based products to treat COVID-19.[][]

Pedersen was charged with seven felonies, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and selling misbranded drugs across state lines with the intent to defraud and mislead.[] 

Court documents cited by Insider state that Pedersen failed to appear in court as ordered on August 25, 2020. Over the three years, authorities searched for him, he filed a dozen documents stating that he was a sovereign citizen, claiming that he was neither himself nor a US citizen but a "corporate entity" and "Living Soul." He also espoused the belief that Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci created COVID-19 as a “simulated war exercise.”[]

Pedersen was only caught after being caught on a gas station surveillance camera on July 5 outside of Salt Lake City, according to court documents obtained by the New York Times. Pedersen was called to appear at a detention hearing in federal court in Salt Lake City on August 15, 2023.[][]

A fake cure

Pedersen claimed that the silver—sales of which earned him $2 million—“resonates, or vibrates, at a frequency that destroys the membrane of the virus, making the virus incapable of attaching to any healthy cell, or to infect you in [any way],” according to a 2023 press release from the DOJ. [][]

Pedersen sold the products through the company that he co-owned, My Doctor Suggests LLC. The company parted ways with him and pleaded guilty to peddling the products. Pedersen had been in the business of selling silver products since at least 2014 and told people that these products could treat arthritis, diabetes, and pneumonia, according to the New York Times. The My Doctor Suggests website is still live, and its products, including silver solution and silver mouthwash, are sold on Amazon.[] 

To convince patients that he was a licensed MD, Pedersen posted videos and photos of himself online donning a white lab coat and stethoscope. His LinkedIn profile, which lists doctorate degrees in pharmacy and natural medicine, is still live. While this may have legitimized him to potential buyers, it is believed that Pedersen does not hold these degrees— nor is he a board-certified medical doctor.[] 

Stamping out the sale of Pedersen’s fraudulent treatments was part of a larger Justice Department plan that involved issuing warnings to companies selling quack COVID-19 medications.[]

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning stating that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition and that it has no known functions or benefits when taken orally. 

The NCCIH also writes that colloidal silver can lead to argyria, a build-up of silver in the body’s tissues. This build-up can cause someone’s skin to appear bluish-gray, leading to poor absorption of certain medications and potential kidney, liver, or nervous system issues. The NCCIH clearly states that silver cannot prevent or treat COVID-19.[]

Silver’s roots in medical history date back to the 1890s, when physicians used colloidal silver to sterilize wounds. However, the discovery of antibiotics quickly replaced silver, according to Antibiotics (Basel).

Heather Barbieri, JD, Founding Attorney at Barbieri Law Firm, says, “In 2021, the United States Attorney General established a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to handle situations exactly like this. The Department of Justice has also focused on community outreach initiatives to make the public aware of COVID-19-related scams.”

Barbieri says that Pedersen will be given the option of either pleading guilty or fighting the charges against him and going to trial. “The company that Pedersen co-owned, My Doctor Suggests, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and is cooperating with prosecutors, so it appears that the government has been looking at Pedersen as their main target for quite some time. That will undoubtedly be a factor in Pedersen’s ultimate decision,” Barbieri adds.

Barbieri says that federal courts generally follow federal sentencing guidelines when determining punishments for defendants convicted of federal crimes. When it comes to offenses like the charges Pedersen is facing, “there are specific factors that can affect the possible punishment range, such as the amount of financial loss involved; whether the offender knew that the victim was unusually vulnerable due to age or physical or mental condition; and whether the offender obstructed justice,” she adds.

According to James Jackson, Psy.D, Director of Long Term Outcomes at the ICU Recovery Center at Vanderbilt and the author of a new book on COVID-19 called “Clearing the Fog: From Surviving to Thriving with Long Covid—A Practical Guide,” people like Pedersen are straight-up dangerous: “They prey on the vulnerabilities of people who are appropriately afraid of getting COVID-19—often the elderly, the frail, the immunocompromised, and those desperate for protection because they have a lot to lose,” he says. 

Jackson says that the fact that there’s even a market for fake ‘cures’ reveals how frightened people were—and are—about COVID-19. “[It] speaks to the terror that many had and continue to have related to this virus and speaks to how badly people want a level of protection,” he says.

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