Kevin Trudeau’s Legal Trouble

Kevin Trudeau has made millions of dollars selling dubious medical products. He started his snake-oil salesman career selling coral calcium through infomercials. Trudeau claimed that this magical form of calcium could cure cancer and whatever ails you. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated Trudeau, who was making millions off his claims, and found that he was being, let us say, less than honest. As a result the FTC banned Trudeau from selling health products through infomercials.

But Trudeau is tenacious and creative – an innovator. Prior to getting into infomercials he was small time – he was convicted for writing bad checks and credit card fraud and spent some time in prison. I always find it interesting that convicted con-artists seem to hit upon such well-guarded secrets. Dennis Lee claims to have found the secret of limitless energy, if only he were not attacked by Big Oil and a corrupt government. Kevin Trudeau claims to have found the cures for just about everything, but The Man is trying to shut him down.

Undeterred by the FTC ban, Trudeau decided that even though he could not sell health products he could sell information – that was protected under free speech – so he started selling books through infomercial, including Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About. Trudeau claimed he went from writing bad checks to discovering not only hundreds of natural cures but uncovering a government and Big Medicine conspiracy to keep this vital information from the public.

What is even more amazing than the audacity of these claims is that a sufficient portion of the population is credulous enough to throw millions of dollars at the likes of Trudeau and Lee. Thankfully in most civilized nations it is a crime to lie to people in order to take their money. The problem has always been enforcement – authorities don’t have the resources to keep up with the constant whack-a-mole game against con artists. Sometimes they lack adequate authority to hand out punishments that would serve as a true deterrent.

However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has apparently kept their sights on Kevin Trudeau and seem to finally be putting a dent in his snake oil empire – perhaps. Trudeau’s financial success with natural cures led him to follow up with the books for debt management and then weight loss. Apparently in addition to being a convicted fraud, Trudeau is a medical and financial genius.

It is his weight loss cure that now has the FTC;s attention – they are taking him to task for misrepresenting his diet cure, which Trudeau has claimed is an “easy” method for weight loss. This “easy” method involves a 500 calorie per day diet (OK, you can stop there, but he adds), prescription hormone injections, and colonics for a month. It’s just that easy – no wonder the diet industry wants to keep this under wraps. If people knew they could lose weight just by eating 500 calories per day, why would they waste time and money on any other diet product.

A Federal judge (aka The Man) decided that Trudeau violated the consent decree that the FTC had placed on Trudeau – essentially saying he cannot lie to the public to sell his wares. The Chicago Tribune reports:

At first, Gettleman imposed a $5.2 million fine. The FTC petitioned for a modest increase, and without a detailed explanation the judge jacked it up to $37.6 million, the regulator’s estimate of how much the book took in through infomercials.

In addition to the fine Trudeau was banned for three years from infomercial. In response Trudeau is pleading poverty. He actually has the temerity to claim that he made no money from the book, that it was all altruism and charity on his part. Just stunning.

At present the case is still in appeal. The fine and 3-year ban is being questioned. Reuters reports:

Writing for a three-judge panel, Judge John Tinder said a lower court judge properly held Trudeau in contempt for having “outright lied” about the content of a book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

Yet the judge was “troubled” by the punishment because it was unclear how the fine was determined, and because the infomercial ban did not consider the possibility that Trudeau could mend his ways.

Hopefully they will be able to back up the fine, which was apparently based on estimates of how much money Trudeau made from sales of the book. That is a factual claim that will hopefully be settled by reviewing the evidence. However, it is incredible to me that the judge was troubled because he feels Trudeau could mend his ways. It is hard for me to see this sentiment as anything but hopelessly naive – not a characteristic common among judges. Trudeau has been a relentless con-artist. He graduated from credit card fraud to infomercials selling snake oil, then weasled out of an FTC ban by selling books, and now is yet again determined to be lying to the public to take their money.

How can anyone familiar with Trudeau’s history, and faced with the fact that he is still working the system with the incredible claim that he made no money from his book, come to the conclusion that he could “mend his ways.”

This must also be put into the context that the people who followed the medical advice in Trudeau’s books, or relied upon his coral calcium claims, or bought into his anti-mainstream medicine conspiracy theories put their health at risk. Trudeau is beyond three strikes. In my opinion he should be banned for life from selling anything to the public and fined every dime he earned through fraud and deception.

Perhaps the laws themselves are inadequate. RICO laws were passed because organized crime could often weasle out of individual convictions or minimize their prison time. RICO allows for career criminals to be prosecuted for a conspiracy to commit ongoing criminal activity. In other words, the pattern of criminality is taken into consideration. Such laws should also apply to career con-artists – or new laws should be passed to deal with such cases. Otherwise FTC fines and bans are little more than a minor nuisance and the cost of doing business.

Posted in: Politics and Regulation, Public Health, Science and Medicine

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