Administrative Law

Pitchman Kevin Trudeau jailed until he reveals assets to pay $37M fine in FTC matter


Especially for someone who claims to have no assets with which to pay a penny of a $37 million civil judgment, diet book author and infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau is living high on the hog, the feds say.

They cite the $12,500 Patek Philippe cufflinks (he says they belong to his wife), the $340,000 Bentley he drove until recently and claimed visits to high-roller tables at Chicago area casinos and purchases of $200,000 in gold bars and coins that cannot be found, among other alleged excesses funded by what authorities describe as unaccounted-for millions passing through businesses Trudeau controls, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

A 50-year-old resident of the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook (he also has a home in Switzerland, a WLS article notes), Trudeau says he is penniless and cannot comply with a federal court order to report where his assets are held when he has none. He has offered to write letters to global financial institutions, asking them to confirm that he has no accounts there. However, the FTC says that would not comply with his duty to reveal what he himself knows about assets and could serve a counterproductive purpose of alerting others to help conceal assets.

Now a federal judge in Chicago has ordered him jailed for contempt until he does reveal his assets, in an effort to obtain money toward a $37 million sanction for violating a Federal Trade Commission consent decree that banned him from making misleading claims about his diet book, The Weight-Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman had held off on lowering the boom so that Trudeau could attend a Washington, D.C., fundraiser to get money for his legal fees. But on Tuesday, as Trudeau made a final plea on his own behalf, the jurist was unmoved and ordered him held at the federal jail in downtown Chicago for at least two nights, according to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Trudeau has compared himself to Oprah Winfrey and said he doesn’t know all the details of his businesses, which are administered by others, leading the judge to note that Trudeau has has written a book about memory and suggested that he read it, the Sun-Times article notes.

Another hearing will be held Thursday to see if any progress has been made by Trudeau toward revealing his assets.

CBS Chicago and NBC Chicago have stories, too.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com (2009): “Infomercial King’s ‘Cure’ Not So Easy, But Sanction Troubling, Court Says”

ABAJournal.com (2010): “7th Circuit Nixes 30-Day Jail Term for Infomercial Pitchman Whose Fans Flooded Judge’s E-Mail Inbox”

ABAJournal.com: “Infomercial king avoids jail, for now, because of contempt hearing delay caused by shutdown”

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