A television pitchman accused of misleading viewers about his weight-loss books during late-night infomercials was taken into custody Tuesday morning for failing to pay a $37 million civil judgment.
Judge Robert Gettleman ordered Kevin Trudeau back to jail during a morning status hearing that included a last-ditch effort to remain free.
"There isn't millions of dollars anywhere," Trudeau said just before the hearing ended. "I don't know how to prove it. ... There are no assets to turn over ... I'll do anything you ask. I just need someone to be specific."
After the 10-minute statement though, Judge Robert Gettleman said simply, "My order stands."
Trudeau smiled as he was handcuffed and led by marshals. It was immediately unclear how long Trudeau would be in custody, but his attorneys said they'll be back in court on Thursday morning.
Lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday urged Gettleman to ignore Trudeau's efforts, arguing that Trudeau hasn't fully disclosed his global assets.
Trudeau spent a night in jail last month after a similar round of arguments.
The infomercial king last week Friday filed paperwork with the federal court and took part in a conference call where he offered to send letters to various people and institutions, asking them to confirm that he has no assets. He argued Tuesday that he should be allowed to remain free, until he receives responses to those letters.
In a Monday motion, FTC lawyers noted that Trudeau even offered to send a letter to "every bank in the world" to confirm that he does not have any unknown accounts.
But FTC lawyer Jonathan Cohen noted that "feasibility aside," most offshore accounts are traditionally held in the name of others (in Trudeau’s case, often his wife), and that even if the banks say nothing is deposited in his name, that does not mean he does not have a fortune secreted around the world.
Cohen said during the teleconference on Friday, "Trudeau compared himself to Oprah Winfrey, and stated that like her, ‘I don’t know anything about the money coming in or going out.'"
Trudeau claims he has no money, but a court-appointed receiver said the veteran pitchman had repeatedly lied to him about assets he discovered on his own. Gettleman agreed that jail was the only remedy to force Trudeau’s cooperation, but allowed him to remain free to attend fundraisers scheduled in Washington.
The FTC argued in their latest filings, that the remedy which the defendant offered now would accomplish nothing.
"Consumers should not have to wait for responses from third parties, when the primary issue is what Trudeau knows," Cohen continued. "Responses will not make Trudeau’s incredible claims about gold bars, coins and cufflinks any more plausible."
The FTC attorney cautioned the judge that the fact that Trudeau sends the letters does not reveal what he actually knows about his assets.
"Nor does it make Trudeau any more honest," he warned.
Indeed, the FTC told the court the so called "letters of direction" could actually make matters worse, causing some, including his wife to take evasive actions to make his wealth even more difficult to find.