Don Lapre, the self-billed “King of Infomercials,” was arrested on June 24, after he failed to appear in court in Phoenix, Arizona, to answer fraud and money laundering charges filed against him.
Lapre is charged with more than 40 counts of various crimes, ranging from conspiracy to mail and wire fraud and promotional and transactional money laundering. He was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly bilking over two hundred thousand people for more than $50 million. These charges stem from his activities related to his company, “The Greatest Vitamin in the World,” which Lapre promoted from 2004 to 2007.
The fraud stems from Lapre’s recruitment of thousands of small investors to start web-based businesses promoting his products and services. Those who were recruited state that Lapre promised support and advertising, but the investors were left holding the bag. To date, 226,794 individuals have signed with the company and spent $51.8 million in costs, while only seeing $6.4 million in cash returns on their investments. Lapre earned $2.2 million himself from the scheme during the time covered by the indictment.
Americans became familiar with Lapre through his late-night informercials and his viral YouTube ads, which admonished people to “live your dreams” and “make things happen.” He stated he started out from a tiny one-bedroom apartment, selling things from classified ads, and ultimately built a multi-million dollar empire based on his vitamins and marketing them through affiliate websites. The majority of the complaints against him stem from the investors not receiving a large enough return on their investment.
Lapre’s website addresses the claims of his detractors in a very personal way, stating:
“Never Stop Dreaming….I tried to create the best product on earth, paid out millions, made very little trying to make it a success, had attorneys review my entire company, paid out millions in refunds, tried to make the commission and products better every single year, and in spite of all that, I have been accused of something I did not do. I did not have the perfect company but never once did I allow one thing to be done that would violate any law. Nevertheless, because the majority of people did not make money, in spite of everyone (sic) of them being able to make as many $1000 checks as they wanted, I am left to fight a battle that will for sure destroy what energy I have left inside… I hope the pictures below motivate you to take a chance in life and try to do the impossible… It did not work out for me with my vitamins but I believe that being willing to fail is part of having a chance at success…. Never stop dreaming and for all those who sent me testimonials of what you did because of some of my help, I am grateful I made a small difference in your life… DL”
The website also shows pictures of Lapre’s palatial beach home, as well as more personal candid photos of his family and even a picture of a hand-written poem praising Lapre as a generous and forgiving person.
After failing to appear at his arraignment on June 23, Lapre was apprehended in Tempe, Arizona, less than a day on the run. The posters US Marshals had circulated about Lapre warned that he suffered from anxiety, depression, and possibly was suicidal.