When TV huckster Kevin Trudeau stood in a packed federal courtroom to make one final sales pitch Monday, he hardly resembled the tanned, dapper figure seen hawking miracle diets and natural cancer cures on so many late-night infomercials.
After spending four months in jail for contempt of court, Trudeau’s trademark jet black coif was thin and gray. His usual tailored suit was replaced by rumpled orange jail clothes. Even his typical air of defiance had turned to contrition, a change he said washed over him during his sleepless first night in custody.
“If I ever write a book again, if I ever do another infomercial again, I promise no embellishment, no puffery and absolutely no lies,” Trudeau told U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman in a remorseful tone. “I know going forward I will be a better person.”
Moments after Trudeau’s plea for leniency, a visibly irritated Guzman sentenced the best-selling author to 10 years in prison, citing Trudeau’s decades-long history of fraud and calling him “deceitful to the core.”But the judge wasn’t buying a word.
“He has treated federal court orders as if they were mere suggestions…or at most impediments to be sidestepped, outmaneuvered or just ignored,” Guzman said in handing down an unusually lengthy prison term for a contempt conviction. “That type of conduct simply cannot stand.”
At the defense table, Trudeau sat back in his chair and smiled slightly as the judge announced his decision. Before he was escorted back to the lockup by U.S. deputy marshals, he turned and waved at the dozens of supporters who had packed the courtroom gallery, mouthing the words, “Thank you.”
It was a tranquil end to a two-hour hearing that at one point had grown raucous. As Guzman was questioning one of Trudeau’s attorneys, an elderly supporter suddenly stood in the front row of the audience and bellowed, “Judge, I am a former U.S. congressman!” before being ordered to sit down.
After another outburst a few minutes later, the man, later identified as Ed Foreman, 80, of Dallas, was ordered to leave the courtroom. He refused, and when security officers tried to stand Foreman up, he went limp and was eventually carried out as other spectators shouted in protest.
“You are not entitled to disrupt the proceedings,” Guzman told the remaining audience members, some of whom sobbed loudly. “I urge you to simply keep quiet and listen.”
Foreman, a former Congressman who represented districts in Texas and New Mexico four decades ago, was ticketed for creating a disturbance, a petty offense payable by a $150 fine and court fees, officials said. According to his website, he is a motivational speaker who has previously touted Trudeau’s Global Information Network, touted as an international club that charges membership fees in exchange for success “secrets.”
Trudeau has been jailed since Nov. 12 when he was convicted by a federal jury of criminal contempt for lying in several infomercials about the contents of his hit book, “The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About.” Prosecutors said he ignored a previous court order by describing the program as easy when it actually called for punishing calorie restrictions and a crippling list of food restrictions.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman has repeatedly found Trudeau in civil contempt for failing to pay anything toward a $37.6 million fine imposed by the Federal Trade Commission in spite of continuing to live a lavish lifestyle.
On Monday, prosecutors cited Trudeau’s history of fraud that goes back to a state conviction in 1984.
“He is a habitual liar and a fraudster,” Assistant U.S. Attorney April Perry said.
As a result of the size of the fraud and Trudeau’s two previous felony convictions, federal sentencing guidelines called for 20 to 25 years in prison, a range that Guzman said he thought was “appropriate.” However, he eventually agreed with prosecutors who said a 10-year term was sufficient since — unlike in many fraud cases — no one who bought Trudeau’s book was financially ruined.
Trudeau’s attorneys argued that prosecutors vastly inflated the amount of harm done by Trudeau’s misleading infomercials, saying many buyers were satisfied with the weight loss book.
In his lengthy statement to the court, Trudeau said he has been “completely wiped out” financially and that he and his wife Nataliya Babenko, 26, are “effectively homeless.” He said his time at the Metropolitan Correctional Center has changed his perspective and led him to realize he had made many errors. While he wouldn’t wish incarceration on anyone, the experience has wound up being “one of the best, most positive things in my life,” Trudeau said.
“In the past four months I have been stripped of all ego, defiance, arrogance and pride and for that I am thankful,” Trudeau said as he stooed at a lectern and read from typed notes.
But Judge Guzman was unimpressed, noting that in his three decades of fraud, Trudeau had taken on more than a dozen different aliases and even used his mother’s Social Security number to perpetrate a scam.
“That doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen by good intentions,” the judge said. “It is a reflection of a person’s character.”
Source: Chicago Tribune