arrest warrant issued for donald lapre - phoenix promotor of the "Greatest vitamin in the world"
PHOENIX – An arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday, June 22, for indicted infomercial pitchman Donald Lapre of Phoenix, who failed to appear at his arraignment on 41 counts for Conspiracy, Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Promotional Money Laundering and Transactional Money Laundering. The indictment, returned earlier this month, alleges that the 47-year-old Lapre oversaw and promoted a nationwide scheme to sell essentially worthless Internet-based businesses to over 220,000 victims through his company "The Greatest Vitamin in the World."
The U.S. Marshals Service has also issued a wanted poster. The Marshals Service, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation are asking the public's assistance regarding the whereabouts of Mr. Lapre. The wanted poster notes that Mr. Lapre is believed to be a loner and suffering from anxiety and depression. In the interest of Mr. Lapre's personal safety and public safety, please be advised that Mr. Lapre may be suicidal. Anyone with information regarding the location of Mr. Lapre is asked to contact Deputy U.S. Marshal Bobby Richardson at 1-877-WANTED2.
According to the indictment, from April 2003 through October 2007, Lapre allegedly conspired with others to defraud thousands of victims all across the country by encouraging them to invest in an Internet-based business. The "business" primarily consisted of selling the Greatest Vitamin in the World (GVW) over the Internet and the opportunity to sell the opportunity to do the same thing to others. At the height of the scheme, Lapre had enlisted approximately 226,794 people to sell a limited number of products via individual websites. Along with selling tens of thousands of Internet-based businesses which were essentially worthless, Lapre fraudulently provided his investor/victims, known as "Independent Advertisers" (IAs), with false vitamin sales records. These records encouraged IAs to purchase additional advertising and services in the hope of obtaining commissions including $1,000 checks. Lapre also fraudulently sold bulk Internet traffic to IAs while claiming that it was targeted to individuals who were seeking to either buy vitamins or invest in similar businesses. GVW sales representatives regularly signed up victims as IAs even if they did not own a computer. During the course of the scheme, at least 220,000 victim/IAs were defrauded of approximately $51.8 million. During this same period, approximately $6.3 million in commissions were paid to approximately 5,000 victim/IAs.
Convictions in this case for Conspiracy carry a maximum penalty of five years, a $250,000 fine or both; Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud carry a maximum penalty of 25 years, a $250,000 fine or both; Promotional Money Laundering carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, a $500,000 fine or both; and Transactional Money Laundering carry a maximum penalty of 10 years, a $250,000 fine or both. In determining an actual sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
An indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Potential victims of this scheme may submit a victim statement via the following website operated by the Postal Inspection Service: www.postalinspectorsurvey.com/vitamins. Potential victims of this scheme may also keep track the progress of the case by visiting the following link located on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona's website: http://www.justice.gov/usao/az/us_v_donald_lapre_gvw.html
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. The U.S. Marshals Service is now assisting with the location and arrest of Mr. Lapre. The prosecution is being handled by Frederick A. Battista, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
CASE NUMBER: CR-11-1102-PHX–SRB (DKD)
RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-127(Lapre Arrest Warrant)