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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Kevin Trudeau, King of the Infomercials

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by Mitch Lipka

Even if you don't know Kevin Trudeau by name, you'll likely recognize his face. You've probably seen him while channel surfing during a bout of insomnia; he's the perfectly coiffed guy who confidently explains to one or more women on his talk show style-infomercials about having the answers for all that worries you -- from illness to money.

Trudeau is a legendary figure in the world of infomercials, with a charismatic approach that has won him a legion of followers. Over the years, he's offered us advice on how to beat cancer, improve our memory, read faster, lose weight and straighten out our finances. Now he's onto the next life-altering topic. Trudeau is currently saturating the infomercial airwaves with 30-minute segments about his latest book: "Free Money 'They' Don't Want You to Know About."

Trudeau has sold millions of books that dole out his expansive range of advice. Yet, one thing his adoring fans might not realize is that the charming pitchman on the television is also a convicted felon who has been slammed with an extraordinary series of sanctions by the FTC for allegedly misleading consumers. Currently, there is a $40 million-plus fine looming over Trudeau's head in an ongoing court battle with the Federal Trade Commission. A judge even gave him the distinction of being the only pitchman banned from doing infomercials.

But that hasn't slowed Trudeau. In fact, you might have seen him last night on an infomercial.

"I have free rein. I can sell whatever I want because I'm protected by the First Amendment," Trudeau told WalletPop. "I can sell a book that says the moon is made of cheese, and it should be protected by the First Amendment."

He has yet to write the moon-cheese book, but if he did, he most certainly would sell a lot of them. His critics -- including the government of the United States -- have portrayed him as a huckster who gets millions of people to pay for worthless advice based on impossible claims. His followers, on the other hand, believe him wholeheartedly.

"He's just playing right into what everyone wants. He's a master of looking for weaknesses," said marketing expert Tom Antion. "Those are the same characteristics as a con man."

Trudeau was definitely playing a con's game in the late 1980s, leading to criminal charges in 1990 for larceny (posing as someone else to cash $80,000 worth of worthless checks) and credit card fraud (for using a bunch of his customers' credit card numbers to ring up more than $120,000 in charges). He went to federal prison for... Read more>>>>

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