By MARK FREEMAN
Federal prosecutors say an Ashland couple accused of peddling over the Internet a diluted version of industrial bleach as an elixir for everything from earaches to cancer are a flight risk and should remain jailed until their case is settled.
Defendants Louis Daniel Smith and Karis Delong previously fled to Ecuador after federal agents in June 2011 raided their Spokane residence, where prosecutors say they illegally sold “Miracle Mineral Supplement” under their Project GreenLife label.
In an October 2011 email seized in the case, Smith wrote to a friend that the couple were in a South American country and had friends ready “to take us into the jungle” should they be indicted for alleged violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Smith, 42, and the 38-year-old Delong were due today in U.S. District Court in Spokane. During the arraignment hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno will hear arguments over whether the couple should be released while their case plays out in court filings.
Imbrogno already has released two co-defendants indicted in the case, which focuses on the sale of an industrial chemical not licensed for ingestion but bought by people who swear by its abilities to cure a suite of ailments that conventional drugs cannot.
Smith, Delong and co-defendant Tammy Olson, 50, of Nine Mile Falls, Wash., were each charged with conspiracy, four counts of interstate sales of misbranded drugs and one count of smuggling stemming from an investigation by FDA special agents and U.S. Postal Service investigators.
Also charged was Olson’s husband, 49-year-old Chris Olson, with one count of conspiracy, one count of interstate sale of a misbranded drug and one count of smuggling.
The most serious charge is smuggling, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Parisi stated in a Monday court filing that the defendants face a maximum sentence of 37 years in prison if convicted on all the charges, but they likely would be sentenced in a range of 63 months to 78 months under federal sentencing guidelines.
Delong and Smith have filed several court documents on their own behalf arguing they sold Miracle Mineral Supplement, referred to as MMS, only to members of a “First Amendment Private Health Case Association.” They claim that constitutionally protected them from federal Food and Drug Administration scrutiny because it was a private association operating outside of the public domain.
Prosecutors have countered that hiding behind the guise of a private association does not insulate the accused MMS conspirators from their crimes.
In Monday’s court filing, Parisi also stated that federal agents made “numerous” undercover purchases of MMS through Project GreenLife’s website.
According to federal prosecutors, MMS was a mixture of water and sodium chlorite that buyers were told to mix with citric acid to form chlorine dioxide, which actually is an industrial chemical used to bleach textiles and disinfect wastewater, according to court records.
Labeling on the chemical states it should never be ingested because it can cause digestive tract burning, nausea, diarrhea and dehydration. If inhaled, it can cause respiratory distress, lung congestion and possibly death.
The indictment also does not make any claims that MMS sickened or harmed anyone — even members of the association.
Its backers claim myriad medical help from MMS in testimonials filed in federal court in Spokane when Smith tried to squash the FDA investigation immediately following the search warrants.
In the 2011 email purportedly sent from an unnamed South American country, Smith wrote that he once grossed $120,000 a month from Project GreenLife sales. But, he wrote, he was at that time living near poverty, “trying to keep my family safe while the FDA works to indict myself and wife back home.”
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.