(Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday ordered infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau released from a downtown Chicago jail where he had been held six days for failing to pay a nearly $38 million judgment over false promises he made in a weight-loss book.
Trudeau, 50, was ordered jailed by Judge Robert Gettleman last week for failing to make full disclosure of assets owned or controlled by him that could be used to pay the judgment from a civil case brought by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC and a court-appointed receiver opposed his release, arguing that Trudeau had not met the court’s conditions, FTC attorney David O’Toole said Monday in an email.
Trudeau, whose marketing business is based in Chicago, has repeatedly insisted he is broke and cannot pay the judgment.
It was the second time in a month that Gettleman had ordered him jailed for contempt. Trudeau spent one night in September at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago.
Well known to U.S. television viewers for his ubiquitous infomercials, Trudeau has battled federal regulators for years over his marketing of products to combat AIDS, hair loss, memory loss and obesity.
Gettleman had found on October 16 that “despite explicit warnings” Trudeau had attempted to conceal foreign bank accounts and assets he controls or can control and had failed to account for millions of dollars in commissions he received.
Trudeau’s lawyers have said he was committed to complying but needed more time due to his complex finances and because third parties had much of his financial information.
The FTC sued Trudeau in 1998, arguing that he had made misleading claims in six infomercials promoting products that allegedly cured ailments ranging from cancer to memory loss.
Trudeau agreed to pay $2 million and be banned from advertising products in infomercials under a settlement with the FTC in 2004. An exception allowed Trudeau to advertise books, but not the products he touted as cures.
The FTC argued that Trudeau’s book promoting easy weight-loss techniques included inaccurate information and violated his agreement. Gettleman ordered Trudeau in 2010 to pay nearly $38 million based on the books sold.
Trudeau faces a separate federal criminal trial in Chicago on accusations that he willfully violated a court order by making representations in infomercials that prosecutors say misrepresented the content of his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”
Trudeau has pleaded not guilty to contempt of court for the criminal trial, which is scheduled to begin November 4.
Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune and Ken Wills