(CHICAGO) The Federal Trade Commission plans to start refunding customers duped into buying fraudster Kevin Trudeau’s diet book “as soon as possible” after a judge gave final approval to the plan, its lawyer said.
Calling it the “fairest way we can do this,” U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman gave his blessing Wednesday to the FTC’s proposal to use $8 million of Trudeau’s fortune to begin compensating people who were conned through false infomercials into buying the TV pitchman’s book, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
The book Trudeau promoted as “an easy weight-loss program” actually offered a 500 calorie-a-day diet, off-label injections of a fertility drug, frequent colonics and “extraordinary, lifelong” diet restrictions, according to the FTC.
Gettleman also shot down a counterproposal by Trudeau to send refunds only to people who have asked for one.
“The FTC’s proposed distribution will give a windfall to certain customers who will receive a check even though they were perfectly happy with Trudeau’s book and do not want a refund,” Kimball Anderson, an attorney for Trudeau, argued in a court filing last month.
FTC lawyer Jonathan Cohen said Wednesday the government agency will track down consumers who purchased Trudeau’s book. He said the refund checks should arrive in white envelopes from the FTC labeled “Refunds for people who bought The Weight Loss Curebook.”
Consumers won’t be getting a full refund on the book. The government agency’s lawyers have said the refunds could arrive in multiple checks to readers, and it’s “reasonable” for consumers to expect $11 total from the first two checks they get. Some variables are at play, including the number of consumers the FTC can track down and the percentage who actually cash their checks. The checks will be valid only for 60 days.
The FTC said more than 820,000 people bought Trudeau’s book, which has a list price of $24.95.
Trudeau is serving a 10-year prison sentence for criminal contempt after violating a court order and repeatedly lying about the contents of his diet book. He’s been accused by prosecutors of brazenly defying Chicago’s federal courts for more than a decade.
Robb Evans & Associates LLC, a firm tasked with tracking down Trudeau’s assets, found earlier this year that his vast business empire generated more than a half-billion dollars between 1999 and 2013. After Gettleman hit Trudeau with a $37.6 million fine in 2008, $30.6 million of that fortune went missing and Trudeau claimed to be “penniless.”
The firm found Trudeau pocketed at least $24 million of the $515 million collected by his various enterprises. It put its hands on $8 million while sorting through the infomercial king’s assets, and that money will be used to pay for the refunds.
Gettleman, who previously called Trudeau a liar who might have committed perjury, again noted Wednesday that Trudeau will have to answer for his fibs when he finishes his prison sentence. The judge said he’s not sure if he’ll still be on the bench when that day comes.
“I hope to be,” Gettleman said.