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Las Vegas man accused of making, selling fake COVID-19 treatment

Updated August 31, 2021 - 6:06 pm

A Las Vegas man has been arrested in connection with allegations that he manufactured and sold a bogus COVID-19 treatment that federal authorities say poses “significant risks to patient health.”

According to a Las Vegas police arrest report for Elias Daniel Beltran Suarez, 53, he was arrested Monday afternoon after an online sleuth provided information to police indicating that Suarez was selling chlorine dioxide, also known as Miracle Mineral Solution CD, on a social media platform as a miracle cure for autism, COVID-19 and cancer.

Police said they searched Suarez’s apartment near Valley View Boulevard and Pennwood Avenue on Monday, turning up an apparent chemical lab used to manufacture the bleaching agent treatment.

“(His) lack of oversight is unlawful and creates a dangerous situation for the community, the patients and public at large,” police wrote in the report.

Suarez was booked Monday at the Clark County Detention Center on a single felony count of acting as a medical practitioner without a license.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned people not to consume chlorine dioxide products.

“Despite previous warnings, the FDA is concerned that we are still seeing chlorine dioxide products being sold with misleading claims that they are safe and effective for the treatment of diseases, now including COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn stated in an April 2020 news release. “The sale of these products can jeopardize a person’s health and delay proper medical treatment.”

The FDA said the product is a liquid that is 28 percent sodium chlorite in distilled water.

Product directions instruct consumers to mix the sodium chlorite solution with citric acid – such as lemon or lime juice – or another acid, such as hydrochloric acid – before drinking. In many instances, the sodium chlorite is sold as part of a kit with a citric acid “activator,” the FDA said. When the acid is added, the mixture becomes chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleaching agent that has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

Police said the Las Vegas investigation started when an online sleuth who described herself as “a campaigner against dangerous pseudoscience” came across Suarez on the online portal Telegram under a group user name Comusav.com. The woman identified herself to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday as Fiona O’Leary of Cork, Ireland.

In a phone interview, O’Leary said she has three children who have autism, and she learned years ago that chlorine dioxide was being peddled by fake doctors and pseudo-scientists to desperate parents of autistic children. She referred to the sellers of chlorine dioxide as “bleachers” who engage in “dangerous quackery.”

“Someone reached out to me telling me they were giving bleach to autistic children,” O’Leary said. “I thought they were mad.”

O’Leary said chlorine dioxide also is sold as a cure for cancer. She said she works tirelessly to out those who sell chlorine dioxide and report them to law enforcement. She said the treatment is especially popular in Latin America.

Police said the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners confirmed that Suarez was not licensed to practice any form of medicine.

At about 4:20 p.m. Monday, police took Suarez into custody and searched his apartment.

“Detectives observed five-gallon buckets filled with an unknown liquid covered with plastic, another bucket that had tubes coming out of it with a respirator next to it, several glass jars, and plexiglass devices,” police wrote, adding that the setup “appear to be indicative of a chemical lab.”

Suarez agreed to speak with detectives. Police said he told them he advertises his chlorine dioxide online and on social media. He said he has made $200 from sales this year and that he also posts videos on how to make it.

According to police, Suarez believes chlorine dioxide is a cure for COVID-19 and said that the machine he uses to produce it “is the same machine he uses to clean pools.”

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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