Even if the name doesn't sound familiar, if you've watched a lot of late-night TV you will probably recognize Kevin Trudeau's face. Famous as the face of countless infomercials, Trudeau was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in federal prison for criminal contempt.
Trudeau has been in jail since November, when jurors found him guilty of charges stemming from his defiance of a 2004 court order. At that time, Trudeau had been ordered to stop running false ads about one of his products, a weight-loss book called The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About. Despite the order, Trudeau ran the commercials at least 32,000 times after that date. In the commercials in question, the product was billed as "a simple, no hunger ... diet-free method of losing weight" but in fact outlined a 500-calorie diet that included the use of hormone treatments.
At his sentencing in a Chicago federal court, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman laid into Trudeau, calling him "deceitful to the core" and adding that, "Since his 20's, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain." He conceded, "There is no doubt that along the way some people have been helped by what he's done." Guzman continued, though, saying, "This case is about his refusal to follow court orders. To tell people the truth. That's just not that hard."
Noting his repeated past fraud and contempt charges and convictions, Guzman said, “He has treated federal court orders as if they were merely suggestions. ... He has blatantly rejected many opportunities to change his conduct and to show true remorse, not by fancy speeches, but by his actions.” As Trudeau's legal problems multiplied over the years, he claimed that the government was out to get him for the content of his books, which include titles such as Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About and Debt Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About.
Trudeau promised to change his ways, saying, "I had a true awakening since being incarcerated four months ago. I've been stripped of ego, defiance, arrogance and pride. It's made me a better person. I'm not the same person I was seven years ago when I made the infomercial." He continued, "I wish I could turn back the clock and never made the statements I made in the infomercials. Making those statements were a mistake and I am sorry."
Trudeau's attorney, Tom Kirsch, pleaded for leniency, saying, "A 10-year sentence might be appropriate for a defendant who destroyed lives ... [but] Trudeau — if he swindled anyone — swindled them out of $30 [each]."
Keri Blakinger is a freelance writer and prison reform activist. Follow her on Twitter @keribla or visit her blog for a steady stream of prison reform stories.