Trials & Litigation

Infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau gets 10 years in criminal contempt case over diet-book claims


Showing no sympathy for the current situation of a television infomercial pitchman said to have earned—and lost—some $37 million as a result of diet-book sales and other ventures, a federal judge in Chicago on Monday blasted Kevin Trudeau and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for criminal contempt.

Described by prosecutors in a sentencing memorandum as an “unrepentant, untiring, and uncontrollable huckster who has defrauded the unsuspecting for 30 years,” Trudeau was convicted of criminal contempt last year for violating a 2004 federal court order that prohibited him from making misleading commercials. He apologized prior to sentencing and said prayer and meditation during the months he has spent locked up since his November conviction have changed him, according to the Associated Press and CNN.

“I have truly had a significant reawakening,” Trudeau told U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman. “If I ever do an infomercial again … I promise: No embellishments, no puffery, no lies.”

Before imposing the sentence the government sought, Guzman called Trudeau “deceitful to the very core,” saying that “he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain” for decades and treated federal court orders “as if they were mere suggestions … or impediments to be sidestepped, outmaneuvered or just ignored.”

Trudeau, whose age is given as 50 and 51 in news accounts, authored and promoted books such as The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About and Debt Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About, enticing customers to buy them by making false claims in advertisements about how easy it would be to follow his program, the feds say. However, he caused only minimal damage through his claimed misrepresentations, argued defense attorney Tom Kirsch, who sought a sentence of less than two years.

“A 10-year sentence might be appropriate for a defendant who destroyed lives,” Kirsch told the judge. But “Trudeau—if he swindled anyone—swindled them out of $30,” Kirsch added, referring to the price of a book.

Kirsch told CNN on Monday night that his client plans to appeal.

Trudeau remained composed in Guzman’s courtroom on Monday, but supporters in the audience shouted in protest after an elderly Texas man—later identified as former U.S. Congressman Ed Foreman, 80—was carried out by security officers when he refused to leave after interrupting the proceedings, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Foreman, who represented districts in New Mexico and Texas while serving as a federal lawmaker and now is a motivational speaker, got a ticket for creating a disturbance in court

Trudeau has also repeatedly been held in civil contempt in another federal judge in Chicago for claiming he cannot pay even a portion of a $37.6 million Federal Trade Commission fine even though he has continued to live a lavish lifestyle.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “7th Circuit Nixes 30-Day Jail Term for Infomercial Pitchman Whose Fans Flooded Judge’s E-Mail Inbox”

ABAJournal.com: “Pitchman Kevin Trudeau jailed until he reveals assets to pay $37M fine in FTC matter”

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