Shameless: The High Priests of Snake Oil Offer Miracle Cures

"20/20" undercover investigation tracks the Genesis II Church and its "clergy."

— -- Its cathedrals are hotel conference rooms.

Its “health ministers” pay $450 to become ordained.

And medical experts say its “miracle cure” for virtually every disease is little more than a kind of industrial bleach.

Yet, while federal law prohibits the sale of such supposed cures, an ABC News “20/20” investigation found the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing making those very claims, with its founder beyond the reach of U.S. law in Mexico and its archbishop conducting weekend seminars where his sermons appear to have come from the Book of Shams.

WATCH the full Brian Ross “20/20” report on ABC tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

According to the Genesis II Church website, millions of its miracle cure kits have been shipped worldwide, and more than 1,700 people have paid to become church “health ministers.”

“Vulnerable, desperate people are always going to be targets for con men. There’s a lot of money to be made from them,” said Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine, a leading expert on medical quacks.

Two “20/20” producers paid $450 to be ordained as “health ministers” after a weekend training seminar at a Houston hotel.

It would be a violation of federal law to sell such a “miracle cure,” but 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 Novella. “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.”

The founder of Genesis II Church, Jim Humble, is a former Nevada gold prospector who claims he came to Earth from another galaxy.

His whereabouts were a closely guarded church secret until “20/20” tracked him down in a small town outside Guadalajara, Mexico.

In a contentious encounter, Humble repeated his claims that the industrial bleach he calls a “miracle cure” should be given to children with autism and women with breast cancer.

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.”

Lisa Bartley is an investigative producer at ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate KABC.

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