CHICAGO — A federal judge on Monday sentenced TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau to 10 years in prison for bilking consumers via infomercials for his best-selling weight loss book.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman blasted the 50-year-old Trudeau before the sentencing, saying that for decades he “steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own personal gain.” Guzman called Trudeau “deceitful to the core.”
Minutes before, Trudeau apologized to the court and said he was a changed man. Trudeau has been jailed since November, when jurors convicted him of criminal contempt for defying a 2004 court order barring him from running false ads about the book. Despite the order, Trudeau aired the infomercials at least 32,000 times, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors had said they could think of no comparable case of someone cheating people so brazenly, and they had said Trudeau deserved a sentence of at least 10 years. Defense attorneys said Trudeau deserved no more than two years.
Trudeau touted his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,” in commercials that often employed news-interview formats. He’s sold millions of other books under titles such as “Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About” and “Debt Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”
As legal scrutiny intensified over the years, Trudeau claimed the U.S. government was out to get him, and he accused agencies and other vested interests of conspiring to suppress low cost, common remedies to diseases, including cancer.
His weight-loss book, which once topped best-seller lists, was the focus of the criminal conviction and a related civil case brought by the Federal Trade Commission, in which Trudeau was ordered to pay a $37 million judgment.
Trudeau said he couldn’t pay the civil judgment because he’s broke. But the FTC noted Trudeau spent lavishly in recent years, including $359 on two haircuts. Trudeau claimed not to know where $100,000 in gold bars that he bought had gone.
He sold more than 850,000 copies of the weight book, generating $39 million in revenue, prosecutors say. But his lawyers have argued it can only be said 67 buyers were defrauded because that’s how many complained to consumer protection agencies.
Prosecutors in the criminal case skewered Trudeau in one recent filing, calling him an “uncontrollable huckster” who would likely even endeavor to defraud fellow prisoners while behind bars.
In a response, the defense called that “overblown and unfair.” They also contended the harm to any one person would have been less than the cost of the $30 book, so no one can claim the “defendant’s actions shattered lives.”