CHICAGO (MCT) — Chicago-based TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau has made a fortune marketing himself as a truth teller who reveals secrets that the rich and powerful want to keep from the public.
Hawking everything from financial advice to weight-loss solutions, the smooth-talking Trudeau managed for more than a decade to stay one step ahead of the government's efforts to silence him, all the while amassing a cultlike following as federal regulators hounded him in court and imposed a whopping $37 million fine.
On Tuesday, a federal jury wasn't buying what Trudeau was selling. The panel of six men and six women deliberated just 45 minutes before finding the controversial author guilty of criminal contempt of court for lying about the contents of his weight loss book in infomercials that aired seven years ago.
It was a swift end to an unusual weeklong trial at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse for Trudeau, 50, who showed little reaction to the verdict as he sat on the edge of his seat. Moments later, Trudeau was unceremoniously taken into custody on orders from U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman, who expressed concern that the man so familiar to late-night TV viewers posed a risk to flee. Prosecutors believe he has millions hidden in overseas accounts.
About two dozen disappointed Trudeau supporters slowly filed out of the courtroom, some clutching copies of his books with tears in their eyes.
Downstairs, in the courthouse lobby, follower Jumal Lewis, 33, of Minnesota, improbably likened Trudeau to South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, saying Trudeau's books have put him and countless others on a path to success.
"He has changed a lot of people's lives," said Lewis, who identified himself as a member of the Global Information Network, an international "club" in which members pay dues to hear motivational speakers — including Trudeau — share their secrets of wealth. "People don't get on a plane and travel from France or Japan because he's selling some fluff."
Trudeau's jailing marked his third stay in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in two months. Another federal judge had twice jailed Trudeau for about a week combined to try to force him to reveal his assets in order to pay off the massive Federal Trade Commission fine.
But this time Trudeau could face years in prison. With no maximum sentence for contempt of court in federal statutes, he faces anywhere from probation to life in prison when Guzman sentences him in February.
The controversy surrounding Trudeau's hit book, "The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About," has raged since 2004 when the FTC imposed a consent decree banning Trudeau from misrepresenting its contents. Regulators said he violated the order a few years later with infomercials claiming the book was filled with "easy" techniques when it actually called for prescription injections of a hormone found only in pregnant women, a month of colon hydrotherapy and a 500-calorie-per-day diet regimen.
In the six years since the fine was levied by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, regulators said Trudeau has failed to pay a penny, claiming he was broke even though he continued to live high off the hog with fancy dinners, luxury homes and expensive cigars. The FTC also accused Trudeau of embarking on a frantic effort to shield his assets from the government by moving them offshore and creating a complex network of companies that — on paper — were owned by his wife, friends or associates.
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