At some point while mindlessly channel-surfing, you no doubt stumbled on a Don Lapre infomercial. Here's one in which Lapre is touting a scheme involving "tiny classified ads" that could "earn you a fortune" of $50,000 a week without even leaving the comfort of your home.
I think it was the whining wind-up to his pitch that caught my attention and held it there for a good few minutes as I tried to figure out what it was Lapre was selling.
Lapre was later caught up in fraud charges. As Fox's Phoenix affiliate reports:
Prosecutors accused him of selling worthless vitamins that could not live up to advertising claims.
Lapre was arrested June 23 in Tempe by the U.S. Marshals Service after failing to appear a day earlier for his arraignment. He had been camping out inside a Lifetime Fitness locker room.
A grand jury indicted the 47-year-old on 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering in connection to his company "The Greatest Vitamin in the World."
The final tally came to 220,000 people defrauded at a cost of $52 million. And yes, you read that right: Lapre was living in a gym.
But yesterday Lapre was found dead in his cell—an apparent suicide. There is a website, donlapre.com, that (assuming it was created by Lapre) makes pretty clear he was at the end of his rope, so to speak. He writes, in part,
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 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.
Lapre then adds, "I hope the pictures below motivate you to take a chance in life and try to do the impossible." What follows are pictures of his lavish home, which I imagine would only enrage those he allegedly defrauded. And then there are the pictures, one assumes, of his children. It's equal parts heartbreaking and disturbing.
A classmate of mine got into the vitamin-selling business. I don't remember the name of the company but he took me to lunch one day and asked if I'd be interested in doing the same. All I needed to do is attend a few seminars. (His initial questions to me revolved around happiness and job satisfaction. Needless to say, I was quite content being an assistant editor and not hawking vitamins my classmate swore I'd be able to feel.)