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Medical fraudster Trudeau sentenced to 10 years in prison

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2310 (Published 24 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2310
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

The television commercial pitchman and bestselling author Kevin Trudeau has been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a US federal judge after he broke an agreement to stop making medical claims.

Trudeau, author of Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, built a commercial empire on popular mistrust of mainstream medicine. He promoted Japanese coral calcium as a cure for cancer and lupus and a product called Biotape as a panacea for chronic pain. He often alleged that the cures he promoted were deliberately suppressed by the drug industry and the medical profession.

In 2004 the US Federal Trade Commission sued over his claims on coral calcium and Biotape, and a court ordered that Trudeau pay $2m (£1.2m; €1.4m). The settlement included an agreement by Trudeau to desist from making further claims about disease or health benefits in print or broadcast media.

Trudeau ignored the agreement, running more than 32 000 television commercial slots after 2004 for his weight loss book. In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission launched a case against Trudeau over the book, which ended with a federal judge ordering Trudeau to hand over all the $39m revenue from the 850 000 copies sold. Trudeau failed to produce the money, claiming poverty. Many of his assets are believed to be in the hands of his Ukrainian wife.

A federal judge imprisoned Trudeau for criminal contempt in November over his failure to pay and also accused him of organizing an email campaign from supporters, who bombarded the judge with angry messages.

In court this week Trudeau, 51, declared himself a changed, humbled man after his experience of incarceration. “I have truly had a significant reawakening,” he said. “If I ever do an infomercial again . . . I promise: no embellishments, no puffery, no lies.”

But US District Judge Ronald Guzman was unconvinced, calling Trudeau “deceitful to the very core” and “an unrepentant, untiring, and uncontrollable huckster who has defrauded the unsuspecting for 30 years” and who “treated federal court orders as if they were mere suggestions.”

The Chicago courtroom was packed with Trudeau’s supporters, including motivational speaker and former Republican US congressman Ed Foreman, who was carried out by US marshals after twice interrupting the judge.

Trudeau’s sentence comes amid a campaign by the Federal Trade Commission against false medical claims. Earlier this month the commission won a federal judgment against the California company Wellness Support Network for making false claims about a “clinically proven natural solution to diabetes with a 90% success rate.” The company must desist from making deceptive claims and must repay $2.2m, with which the commission will reimburse consumers.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2310

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