Infomercial guru jailed for fraud

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 17:18 18/03/2014
Kevin Trudeau
KEVIN TRUDEAU: A smooth salesman, persuasive speaker and convicted fraudster.

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An American author and infomercial marketer who tried to get New Zealanders to join his secret society has been jailed in the US for fraud.

Kevin Trudeau was convicted of defrauding consumers through infomercials for his book, The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

His last appearance in New Zealand was in 2012 when a small crowd gathered at Auckland's plush Langham Hotel to hear how he could help them make lots of money and leave them feeling calmer, healthier and more in control of their lives.

To do it they only had to pay US$1000 (NZ$1167) to become a member of what he called his secret society.

A Fairfax account  of his Auckland show said 30 people paid even before hearing him. Several had paid the joining fee and said they had also been paying Trudeau US$150 a month to belong to the Global Information Network he created.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Trudeau, 50, pleaded for a light sentence in the US District Court today, saying he had undergone a "personal transformation" while imprisoned for the last four months since being convicted of contempt.

But Judge Ronald Guzman gave him the sentence prosecutors had asked for.

"He's deceitful to the very core," Judge Guzman said.

"This type of conduct simply cannot stand."

In sentencing filings, prosecutors noted Trudeau's "brazen defiance" of federal courts in Chicago for more than a decade, a 30-year pattern of "fraud and deceit" and a loss of more than US$37 million by the consumers who bought his bogus diet book.

Trudeau repeatedly refused to pay a cent of a US$37 million court-imposed fine saying he had no money.

He addressed the court wearing an orange jumpsuit and slippers instead of the sharp suit of his infomercials, the Sun-Times said.

He said he spent hours a day "reading positive, uplifting, inspirational self-improvement books" and had completed a home-study course on personal values and integrity.

"I have been stripped of all ego, arrogance, defiance and pride and for this I am very thankful, as it has made me a better person," he told the judge.

Trudeau also vowed that if he ever did another infomercial, "I promise no embellishment, no puffery."

Jurors found Trudeau guilty of criminal contempt in November for defying a 2004 court order barring him from running false advertisements about the weight-loss book.

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Despite the order, he aired the infomercials at least 32,000 times, according to prosecutors. He sold more than 850,000 copies of the weight-loss book.

Trudeau's book describes a tough 500-calorie-a-day diet, as well as hormone treatments.

Judge Guzman said the deception came in Trudeau's infomercials that misrepresented the contents of the book as laying out "a simple, no-hunger ... diet-free method of losing weight," which enticed more people to buy the book.

Infomercials for his Mega Memory audio tapes that promised to teach listeners how to get a photographic memory, were a familiar sight on New Zealand television screens.

At his Auckland presentation Trudeau was open about the fact that the membership of his club was expensive, but if the joining fee and US$150 a month seemed like a lot of money, "you probably need [this club] more than you realise", he said.

He repeatedly stressed the presentation was "only the beginning" of the club's presence in New Zealand.

"A couple of years from now, here in New Zealand, we'll have probably dozens of local chapters," he said.

"We will have a club house here in the next three years, we'll probably have some lodges as well. We will have one-day seminars here as well ... probably every other month we'll have a live one-day event."

- Stuff

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