TV, Web Pitchman Donald Lapre Arraigned In ‘Medical Facility’ After Arrest By Federal Agents; Accused Huckster Recovering From ‘Self-Inflicted’ Wounds To Legs After Missing Court Date
He called it “The Greatest Vitamin in the World.” Federal prosecutors in Arizona, however, called it conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, promotional money-laundering and transactional money-laundering, accusing Donald Lapre of selling “essentially worthless” Internet businesses to more than 226,000 victims.
And now Lapre, 47, is under arrest. Prosecutors said he skipped a June 22 court date, a decision that caused an arrest warrant to be issued, a “Wanted” poster to be created and a brief manhunt to ensue.
Lapre was arrested on June 23. Prosecutors, who earlier advised the public that Lapre may be suicidal, said he was found with “self-inflicted” wounds to his legs and taken to a hospital. He was arraigned inside a “medical facility” by a federal magistrate judge yesterday.
Tens and tens of thousands of Lapre’s customers were defrauded out of nearly $52 million after responding to his TV and web pitches, prosecutors said.
Customers lured by the prospect of receiving “$1,000 checks” were dubbed “independent advertisers,” but Lapre provided them “false vitamin sales records” and sold them “bulk,” untargeted web traffic while claiming the traffic was targeted, prosecutors said.
“The ‘business’ primarily consisted of selling the Greatest Vitamin in the World . . . over the Internet and the opportunity to sell the opportunity to do the same thing to others,” prosecutors said.
Sales reps “regularly” signed up “independent advertisers” even if they did not own a computer, prosecutors said.
“Mr. Lapre used incessant nationally televised infomercials to hawk his vitamins and worthless websites as a way to get rich quick without working hard,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke of the District of Arizona. “His scams swindled a sea of victims, but thanks to the efforts of the [U.S.] Postal Inspection Service and the IRS, he will face justice.”
Lapre was charged in a 41-count indictment issued by a federal grand jury earlier this month. He potentially faces decades in prison, if convicted on all counts.
Fox 10 News in Phoenix reported that Lapre hid from authorities in a 24-hour gym.