CHICAGO, Ill. - Best-selling author and infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau is avoiding jail time for now, but a federal judge has ordered him to transfer ownership of companies and financial accounts to a court-appointed receiver.
Judge Robert Gettleman found Trudeau in contempt for his failure to pay more than a $37 million fine for misleading ads about his weight-loss book.
The Federal Trade Commission argued to have Trudeau jailed. However, Gettleman said putting the TV pitchman behind bars would likely not achieve the goal of repaying consumers. The court-appointed receiver will be in charge of tracking down the money.
"Mr. Trudeau is a puppet master who has a lot of strings out there and I'm not sure he can pull those strings from jail," said Gettleman, who made no effort to hide his disgust with the man he's seen in his courtroom for years. "It's just been one lie after the other after the other."
With the contempt finding, Gettleman agreed with the FTC that Trudeau has the money to pay the enormous judgment, but has chosen to fight it instead. Gettleman noted Trudeau has spent more than $5 million on lawyers as he has battled the government.
Attorneys for the FTC presented evidence that Trudeau is hiding assets in offshore accounts. They have also produced e-mails and bank statements showing lavish expenses for furniture and personal chefs.
When he took the stand in May, Trudeau invoked his Fifth Amendment right nearly 400 times .
The federal contempt case is tied to an undercover 41 Action News investigation about the Global Information Network (GIN), a secret club promoted by Trudeau.
During that November investigation, 41 Action News revealed controversy about the club, including complaints from former members in the Kansas City area who claimed they did not receive promised cash payouts.
The 41 Action News investigation also raised questions about whether Trudeau was using the club as another way to shield millions of dollars from the government.
Trudeau argues that he has no control over the finances of companies like GIN. On Friday after the contempt ruling, Trudeau's attorney, Kimball Anderson, maintained his client wants to cooperate but does not own the companies and does not have the money.
Gettleman's order included GIN among the assets Trudeau should turn over to the court-appointed receiver. The judge said the evidence was "so clear" that Trudeau was in charge of the secret club.
"Failure to comply fully with the directions contained in this order will result in Trudeau's immediate incarceration until such compliance is achieved," the order concluded .