Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Sipa USA
Best-selling author Kevin Trudeau, whose name became synonymous with late-night TV pitches, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for bilking consumers through ubiquitous infomercials for his book, The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About.
As he imposed the sentence prosecutors had requested, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman portrayed the 50-year-old Trudeau as a habitual fraudster going back to his early adulthood. So brazen was Trudeau, the judge said, he once even used his own mother's Social Security number in a scheme.
"Since his 20s, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain," Guzman said, adding that Trudeau is "deceitful to the very core."
Trudeau, whose trademark dyed-black hair turned partially gray as he awaited sentencing in jail, showed little emotion as the stiff sentence was handed down at the hearing in Chicago.
Addressing the judge earlier in a 10-minute statement, Trudeau apologized and said he's become a changed man. He said he's meditated, prayed and read self-help books while locked up at Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center.
"I have truly had a significant reawakening," said Trudeau, who was dressed in orange jail clothes. "If I ever do an infomercial again ... I promise: No embellishments, no puffery, no lies."
Jurors convicted Trudeau of criminal contempt in November for defying a 2004 court order barring him from running false ads about the weight-loss book. Despite the order, he aired the infomercials at least 32,000 times, according to prosecutors.
He sold more than 850,000 copies of the weight-loss book, generating $39 million in revenue, prosecutors say. And the judge agreed with prosecutors that the amount of loss stemming from Trudeau's deception was more than $37 million – nearly the amount in revenue.
Trudeau's weight-loss book describes a grueling, 500-calorie-a-day diet, as well as hormone treatments. The deception, Guzman explained, came in Trudeau's infomercials that misrepresented the contents of the book as laying out "a simple, no hunger ... diet-free method of losing weight," which enticed more people to buy the book.