King Con -- Selling Questionable Cures?

ByABC News
January 20, 2006, 5:59 PM

Jan. 20, 2006 — -- Kevin Trudeau has been on the best-seller list for six months, and he says he's sold 5 million books. You've probably seen him if you watch late-night TV.

He hosts infomercials saying things like this: "Drug companies do not want people to be healthy; they do not want to cure disease." He spent $22 million last year, buying up 2,000 hours of airtime for these infomercials so he can tell his viewers he knows how to cure "virtually every disease."

Trudeau claims there are natural remedies that will prevent and cure almost every disease -- cancer, heart disease, diabetes, herpes -- the list goes on and on.

He says if you follow his advice you'll never get sick. "20/20" bought some of the things Trudeau's book recommends, like an electromagnetic chaos eliminator that's supposed to ward off migraines and a magnetic mattress pad he says will cure multiple sclerosis. He also says a trampoline will help cure depression, and that wearing white will improve your mood and help prevent disease.

There must be some truth to it, right? Millions of book buyers couldn't all be suckers, could they?

But I wonder: Do his fans know the truth about Trudeau's past?

Trudeau went to jail twice, first for swindling a bank, and the second time for cheating his own customers through credit card fraud.

Once out of jail, he appeared on TV as a memory expert and made false claims, according to the Federal Trade Commission, about improving your memory.

Then he claimed to have a tape that would make your pain go away. Then he claimed calcium would cure cancer.

Repeatedly, the government would move to take him to court, but without getting to court, he'd settle and sign what's called a consent order. A consent order is when you say, "I don't admit doing anything wrong, but I won't do it anymore." Then Trudeau would go right back into business, selling something different -- like weight-loss remedies.

Finally, two years ago, frustrated government officials demanded a bigger settlement. Again, Trudeau admitted no wrongdoing, but he agreed to give up one of his million-dollar homes as part of a $2 million settlement, and they got him to agree to stop selling products for life. Officials thought that would be the end of his deceitful TV pitches, but no.

Months later he was back on TV, selling books. The government couldn't prevent that -- freedom of speech laws make books different from other products. And books -- even though he's had to publish them himself -- have turned out to be his biggest gold mine yet.

What's more, his book sends readers to his Web site, where they're told to pay $9.95 a month more for details about his cures, or $499 for a lifetime membership.

Dr. Stephen Barrett runs He's been tracking Trudeau for years and can't believe what Trudeau gets away with. "I don't think I've ever seen a book that has more ridiculous information," he said.

"Are there 'secret cures' for lots of diseases? No, that's been a quack claim for centuries," he added.

But secrecy sells. Trudeau hires infomercial hosts like Tammy Faye and explains there are things that pharmaceutical companies don't want you to know because, he claims, they want you to stay sick so they can make money.

But lots of people seem to want to believe that drug companies are doing evil things. Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen, the Ralph Nader-founded group, has long complained that drug companies push bad drugs. You might think, therefore, that he'd say Trudeau is on to something, but he doesn't.

Have people like Wolfe set Trudeau and others like him up for success by convincing people that there's collusion between drug companies and the government?

"I think it's possible to be critical about the drug industry, and yet say they do some very clear good for which there's clear evidence," Wolfe said.

Despite Trudeau's fantastic book sales, Wolfe, author of "Worst Pills, Best Pills," said Trudeau's book isn't worth much. "I would say 10 percent of that is common sense and 90 percent is quacker," he said.

Of course, many illnesses go away on their own or are psychosomatic. And I suspect that's why many of Trudeau's customers say they were helped. But the Internet is filled with complaints too. Many of them sad.

One woman said she stopped using her drugs based on Trudeau's advice, and suffered a terrible seizure. A man said his tumor grew larger after he relied on Trudeau's book.

Veronica Krammes says she has had spinal surgery and suffers constant pain. She and others complained about Trudeau's book on the Web site. "I bought the book because I wanted to see natural cures that he promises to give me and there's none in here. It's to me, a total waste of money. It was a scam," she said.

Joyce Ball's sister is dying of cancer and is too ill to appear on TV. Joyce bought her Trudeau's book.

She said her sister felt cheated. "She felt betrayed, and she felt she was a fool for believing what he had to say," she said.

I wanted to ask Trudeau about all this, but he wouldn't sit down for a taped interview. A few months ago, however, he did talk to "Nightline's" Jake Tapper (Click Related link above to read Tapper's interview.)

But he proved very adept at spinning the truth in the "Nightline" interview.

In the interview, he emphasized that his $2 million settlement was not a fine, but consumer redress.

And his infomercials have more misinformation. He claimed that the government and pharmaceutical industry spend virtually no money on researching natural remedies.

But that's a lie. Last year the National Institutes of Health spent millions studying natural remedies. Trudeau claimed longevity specialist Dr. Andrew Weil concurs with many of his points.

But Weil's publicist told us that's not accurate.

Trudeau says Nobel Prize winner Dr. Richard Axel proved that prescription drugs are harmful and asks why that's not front page news.

It's not front page news because Axel says his research had nothing to do with that!

Trudeau also claims the American Medical Association published a report that said 900,000 people died last year by taking nonprescription and prescription drugs.

And the AMA said, that's a lie.

Tapper caught Trudeau lying about the source of his natural cure for diabetes.

Trudeau said, "The University of Calgary has 25 years of research. And I'm really glad you brought it up because diabetes can be, if not completely cured and wiped out in America, dramatically reduced by this herbal combination."

Tapper and "Nightline" called the University of Calgary to verify Trudeau's claim.

This was the university's response: "There have been no human studies conducted at the University of Calgary in the past 20 years on herbal remedies for diabetes."

Trudeau said he was "shocked and amazed" by the university's statement. He claimed to have a stack of papers supporting his statement.

He never sent ABC News that stack of papers or any studies from the University of Calgary. Could he just be lying to make money?

Trudeau keeps saying the Food and Drug Administration and drug companies only care about money. But many of his past customers say money is all Trudeau cares about.

Joyce Ball said, "He rails against the FDA, the government -- everybody's trying to stop him. Well now I see why. He's preying on people that are sick and dying. And he's not giving them any answers. He's giving them false hope."

Visit these Web sites for more information: