Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a cease-and-desist letter on Thursday to an air-purification firm and the Phoenix megachurch that hosted Trump's visit this week, demanding they stop making fraudulent statements about preventing COVID-19.
Before Trump's June 23 visit, Dream City Church leaders Luke Barnett and Brendon Zastrow brought national attention to the firm Clean Air EXP when they made a video claiming their new air system would get rid of the novel coronavirus and make it safe to visit their 3,000-seat auditorium.
"So when you come into our auditorium, 99 percent of COVID is gone," Barnett, the church's senior pastor, said in the video. "So you can know when you come down here, you'll be safe and protected."
At the time, Clean Air EXP had a section on its website saying its "COVID-19 Report" proved through product testing that would get rid of 99 percent of coronavirus — even though it had not tested the system on the novel coronavirus.
About 3,000 people packed the auditorium on Tuesday for Trump's rally, most not wearing masks. Following stories in Phoenix New Times and elsewhere that debunked the claims by the church and company, Dream City Church took its video off social media, and Clean Air EXP changed its web message.
Brnovich, in a release today about the cease-and-desist letter, said Clean Air EXP "has advertised and continues to advertise" that it can "neutralize COVID-19," yet his office "is aware of no scientific research or public health authority certifying any kind of treatment product as a means of preventing COVID-19 infections."
A similar warning and cease-and-desist letter also went to Dream City Church, the AG's Office said.
"Businesses cannot mislead consumers with their advertising, especially when it comes to health issues as serious as COVID-19," Brnovich said in a prepared statement. "We will not tolerate companies that attempt to deceive or exploit the public during this public health crisis."
Brnovich has made COVID scams a priority in the last few months. His office has sent cease-and-desist notices to a Chandler prepper company that sold "instant immunity" pills, and a Phoenix medical-marijuana dispensary company, Yilo, that sold a "Coronav Immunization Stabilizer Tincture."
Tim Bender, Clean Air EXP's CEO, told New Times this week that the church leader's statements had caused "confusion." But he declined to be interviewed about his company's own questionable claims. Bender did not immediately return a message to New Times about the AG's letter; this article will be updated when he responds.
Barnett did not return a message.
UPDATE: After this article was published, Bender got back to New Times via his PR spokesperson, Saramaya Penacho of BAM public relations agency.
“We are committed to developing and providing advanced air and surface purification systems for homes and businesses," Bender's statement says. "No air purification system, including ours, can universally prevent coronavirus (including COVID-19) infections. On June 23, we updated our website to further emphasize the coronavirus surrogates used in our laboratory testing and made all lab reports available. We encourage following hygiene guidelines in the manner ordered or suggested by government authorities.”
Whether the AG's office considers the company's new web changes to be sufficient, or whether the company might be in trouble for its previous representations, remains to be seen. In its letter to Clean Air EXP, the office seems to indicate more action could be coming the company's way.
"Additionally, you are hereby notified to preserve all written and electronic materials related to Clean Air EXP’s sale or advertisement of any products related to COVID-19 in anticipation of consumer fraud litigation," the letters states.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Consumers who believe they may be the victims of fraud can contact the AG's Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763.
Below: The letters sent to Dream City Church and Clean Air EXP: