No return to jail— for now— for TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau

Federal judge rules author of ‘Weight Loss Secrets “They” Don’t Want You To Know’ can remain free, and working, to pay off $37 million judgment.

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Former informercial king Kevin Trudeau owes $37 million to consumers who bought his sham diet book. A federal judge is allowing Trudeau to remain free and work to pay off his debt.

Chicago Sun-Times File

Over the last two decades, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman has thrown TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau in a federal lockup twice in a quest to get the onetime infomercial king to pay off $37 million to consumers who bought his sham diet book.

On Thursday, the judge opted to let Trudeau remain free, and even considered letting him travel outside the country, to keep earning the millions he still needs to pay off his debt.

After a daylong hearing, one in a series of court sessions that have spanned months as the judge sought to figure out if Trudeau was shielding assets in off-shore accounts or hiding gold bars in Swiss vaults, Gettleman ruled that he could have again sent Trudeau back to jail — but wouldn’t. For now.

“The intention is to get to the bottom of all this and get the judgment paid off ... and I don’t think that’s furthered by incarcerating Mr. Trudeau,” said Gettleman, who has presided over Trudeau’s case since the late 1990s. “If it doesn’t work or if I have problems, then I’m going right back to the other option that I’m avoiding here today.”

Gettleman had considered throwing Trudeau in prison in 2014 — already having locked him up for brief stints twice in 2013 — when Trudeau began serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison in an unrelated case.

Gettleman noted that he could have jailed Trudeau for contempt earlier this year, after Trudeau failed to tell the judge that he had been released.

To settle the debt, the judge ordered Trudeau to pay 75% of his after-tax earnings from his work as an employee for Global Information Network Unite, a successor company to the one a court-appointed receiver sold off to Trudeau’s business associates before he went to prison. He must also forfeit all of his earnings from side deals, such as a proposed endorsement agreement with a natural cures company — if such a deal doesn’t defy a court order barring Trudeau from making health-related claims about consumer products.

Lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission have long maintained that Trudeau has never given a full accounting of the assets he retained from the roughly $515 million he collected from sales of books, videos and other products from the 1990s onward, and said Thursday that after numerous days in court and multiple depositions, private investigations and the work of a court-appointed receiver, Trudeau still had not proved that he didn’t have access to hidden wealth.

Prior to landing in court late last year, the only money put toward Trudeau’s debt was a few million dollars paid out with the proceeds of the liquidation of his companies. Since being released from jail, he has paid more than $2 million toward his debt, much of it coming from a “fan club” that receives donations from his supporters. FTC attorneys said the amount Trudeau still owes is more than $20 million.

Trudeau is the star employee of GIN Unite, traveling across the country to offer life coaching to crowds of fans, work that his lawyer said was hindered by his inability to travel internationally without court approval. Gettleman on Thursday approved a trip to an event in Idaho for later this year, but he held off on granting permission for travel to Puerto Rico.

Outside the courtroom, Trudeau said he intended to live “very modestly” — GIN Unite has paid for first-class flights and four-star hotel accommodations when he travels — and work diligently to pay off his debt.

“I still have a long way to go,” Trudeau said. “Now that I have a path forward, I’m going to do as much as I can to earn as much money as possible.”

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