Indicted infomercial pitchman Donald Lapre, of Phoenix, who previously failed to appear at his arraignment on 41 counts for Conspiracy, Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Promotional Money Laundering and Transactional Money Laundering, will remain in custody pending trial. At a hearing in Phoenix today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson ordered that Lapre be detained as a flight risk.
In the course of the hearing, the prosecution noted that Lapre had received notice of his scheduled arraignment and failed to appear, and that while he had recently been residing in Maricopa County, the investigating agencies were unable to locate any record of his current address through checks related to a residence, motor vehicle, driver’s license, telephone, or private post office box. The indictment alleges that the 47-year-old Lapre oversaw and promoted a nationwide scheme to sell essentially worthless Internet-based businesses to over 220,000 victims through his company “The Greatest Vitamin in the World.”
According to the indictment, from April 2003 through October 2007, Lapre allegedly conspired with others to defraud thousands of victims all across the country by encouraging them to invest in an Internet-based business. The “business” primarily consisted of selling the Greatest Vitamin in the World (GVW) over the Internet and the opportunity to sell the opportunity to do the same thing to others. At the height of the scheme, Lapre had enlisted approximately 226,794 people to sell a limited number of products via individual websites. Along with selling tens of thousands of Internet-based businesses which were essentially worthless, Lapre fraudulently provided his investor/victims, known as “Independent Advertisers” (IAs), with false vitamin sales records. These records encouraged IAs to purchase additional advertising and services in the hope of obtaining commissions including $1,000 checks. Lapre also fraudulently sold bulk Internet traffic to IAs while claiming that it was targeted to individuals who were seeking to either buy vitamins or invest in similar businesses. GVW sales representatives regularly signed up victims as IAs even if they did not own a computer. During the course of the scheme, at least 220,000 victim/IAs were defrauded of approximately $51.8 million. During this same period, approximately $6.3 million in commissions were paid to approximately 5,000 victim/IAs.
Trial is currently set for October 4, 2011, before U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton in Phoenix. Convictions in this case for Conspiracy carry a maximum penalty of five years, a $250,000 fine or both; Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud carry a maximum penalty of 25 years, a $250,000 fine or both; Promotional Money Laundering carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, a $500,000 fine or both; and Transactional Money Laundering carry a maximum penalty of 10 years, a $250,000 fine or both. In determining an actual sentence, Judge Bolton will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
An indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Potential victims of this scheme may submit a victim statement via the following website operated by the Postal Inspection Service: www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/vitamins. Potential victims of this scheme may also keep track the progress of the case by visiting the following link located on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona’s website: http://www.justice.gov/usao/az/us_v_donald_lapre_gvw.html
HERE’S a cool article related to Donald Lapre: http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/lapre.html
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!