We’ve been following the saga of former bestselling weight loss guru and TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau for about six years, since he was found in contempt of court for violating a 2004 FTC settlement banning him from misrepresenting the content of his books. The Trudeau tale is nearing a final chapter now that he faces possible jail time after being found guilty of criminal contempt for misleading statements in his infomercials.
As part of the 2004 deal with the FTC, Trudeau was allowed to use infomercials to sell his books, so long as he didn’t misrepresent what was actually written in those books. But in the years following that settlement, the regulators learned that Trudeau’s latest round of TV spots sold his weight-loss program as an “easy” diet that didn’t require exercise. Problem is, the program actually calls for an hour of walking each day, a 500 calorie/day diet, and prescription injections of hormones found only in pregnant women. Not exactly easy.
This latest trial did not deal with whether or not the program works. Instead, the question was whether the statements made in the infomercial misrepresented the contents of the product being sold, thus violating the terms of the 2004 court order.
“He made the book sound way better than it actually was,” the prosecutor explained to the jurors. “If he told the truth, that book wasn’t going to sell nearly as well than if he lied.”
Trudeau’s attorneys argued that everything stated in the infomercials was done so in a way as to be stated as Trudeau’s personal opinion, and thus protected under the First Amendment.
“Watch any television commercial for any product — it’s the views and opinions of the persons who are making and selling the product,” argued Trudeau’s attorney. “That’s what advertising is.”
The judge in this case took the unusual step of revoking Trudeau’s bail pending sentencing, claiming the pitchman was too much of a flight risk. Trudeau was recently ordered to jail by the judge in a related civil case over allegations that he has failed to pay any of the $38 million in court-ordered penalties even though he supposedly has funds available to pay at least some of that amount.
Trudeau also spent some time behind bars in 2010 when he called on his followers to deluge the judge in his case with e-mails.