It took jurors in a Chicago courtroom only one hour of deliberation to decide that controversial TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau was guilty of criminal contempt for making misleading claims in TV infomercials for his best-selling weight loss book.
In closing arguments today, prosecutors listed several of the false claims Trudeau made in his infomercials for "The Weight Loss Cure They Don't Want You to Know About," including that it was not a "diet," even though it required at least three weeks of eating 500 calories or less a day. It also required daily injections of a hormone found only in pregnant women, which Trudeau claimed could be found "anywhere," when in fact the hormone required a doctor's prescription. Prosecutors also said that Trudeau claimed that after completing the diet, consumers could eat anything they wanted without regaining weight.
Only the claims Trudeau made in the infomercials about the book were the subject of this trial, not the truth of the claims laid out in the book itself.
Trudeau was immediately taken into custody and awaits sentencing. He could face years in prison.
The verdict today in this criminal case is separate from the civil case Trudeau has been fighting with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a $37.6 million sanction against him for deceptive marketing, which he claims he cannot pay. The civil court judge referred the case to the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, which decided criminal contempt charges were warranted. That is the case the jury decided today.
For the past few years, Trudeau has been locked in an acrimonious dispute with the FTC over the government agency's allegations that he was concealing assets that should have been used to pay sanctions.
Trudeau was found in civil contempt in 2007 for making misleading claims in infomercials for his weight-loss book. At the time, the court ruled that Trudeau had violated previous court-approved settlements reached with the FTC, which resulted in the court ordering him to pay the $37 million to compensate customers who bought the book.
Trudeau claimed his estate is in ruins, and he is "penniless," so when he didn't pay, the FTC petitioned the court to jail him. Even though the infomercial king countered that he would pay if he could, but it was impossible because he had no assets.Trudeau was briefly jailed twice because the judge didn't believe he was telling the truth.
The civil case is still going on.
Before this most recent civil case, Trudeau had previously paid $2.5 million in previous settlements with the FTC for allegedly misleading claims for a host of products he pitched in infomercials. Trudeau's record also includes two felony fraud convictions from the early 1990s, for which he spent nearly two years in federal prison.