The FTC settlement spotlights a pitchman whose career has been a remarkable string of moneymaking marketing ventures. The FTC estimated that last year's sales of Coral Calcium Supreme alone ran into the tens of millions of dollars. In May 2003, Trudeau's Coral Calcium infomercial -- a 30-minute interview with a self-described scientist named Robert Barefoot who claimed to know the cause of cancer -- was the top earner. In addition to his direct-mail and infomercial business, he owns four television channels that air in Britain.
Trudeau, 41, also has left a wake of felony and questionable dealings. In addition to paying previous fines for hawking bogus products, he served a two-year jail sentence for credit fraud when selling his Mega Memory System.
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"I got into legal trouble by cutting corners and I pleaded guilty," Trudeau told an Australian magazine in 1999. "Before I went in [prison], making money was the objective. When I came out it was helping people."
In 1996, Trudeau's pitches helped propel Nutrition for Life International Inc. -- an Amway-style health product business -- to record sales. But a Wall Street Journal story on the company revealed that Trudeau served time in the early '90s for credit card fraud and knowingly writing $80,000 in bad checks.
Trudeau misappropriated the credit card numbers of his customers for his own use and even posed as a doctor to fool bank officials, according to court documents cited by the Journal.
In the days following the story, the value of Nutrition for Life's stock dropped by half. Later that year, the company paid $185,000 to settle charges that it ran a pyramid scheme.
In 1998, Trudeau paid the FTC $500,000 for citing unproven scientific studies when selling his Mega Memory System. Also, said his lawyer, there have been "a number" of settlements with state attorneys general over the years.
Under yesterday's FTC settlement, Trudeau can continue to sell products such as the book for sale on his Web site, www.naturalcures.com, "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You To Know About" ($29.95), unless he makes claims favoring one cure over another.
It says on his Web site, "Learn about the low carb scam and how the Atkins and South Beach diets are some of the greatest frauds being perpetrated." In 2002, Trudeau's infomercial for the "Atkins Answer" was a top-earner.
Trudeau claimed to have made his first million by 16 after starting a business selling information on how to get loans. According to public records, Trudeau is listed as owning an $800,000 Ventura County house and a $1.6 million piece of property about six miles away.