infomercial king arrested : TV Pitchman Nabbed On Fraud Charges. It’s a wonder that TV and Internet scam artist Don Lapre isn’t already in prison. I remember being in college in the 90s, usually up late at night studying in a haze of booze and caffeine, and he was always on my television blabbering about how he was able to make $50,000 per week from his one bedroom apartment by selling “tiny classified ads” advertising 1-900 numbers. He was so ubiquitous, at one point, that he was satirized on SNL by David Spade. Then that fizzled out, apparently, but not before he got pretty wealthy sharing his “secrets” with others, and then the Internet came along and provided the shady pitchman with another avenue for fleecing the gullible of their money: selling what he called “The Greatest Vitamin in the World.”
“This indictment goes to show that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke said in a news release.
I bet the people who invested in Lapre’s “vitamin” business wish they had that advice. The Web site Rip-off Report features many complaints from the so-called “Independent Advertisers” who spent thousands of dollars for the opportunity to sell the product, only to find it was nearly impossible to do so.
Some of the complaint filers said they were unemployed and looking for a way to make money, including Charles from New Jersey, who filed a claim in 2007. In the report, he claims to have spent more than $6,000 in merchandise and advertising, but never made a profit. He unsuccessfully tried to cancel his plan before the 60-day money-back guarantee was up.
“The Greatest Vitamin in the World” appears to have folded in 2007, a year after Lapre was sent a letter from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the “objectionable claims” he was making on his Web sites.
Lapre may be best known for the “tiny classified ads” infomercial, in which he claimed that purchasers could make thousands by placing small ads in newspapers for “900” phone lines. The ad was so prevalent on TV that it was spoofed by David Spade on “Saturday Night Live.”