Infomercials King Don Lapre found dead in jail cell

TV Salesman Don Lapre has been found dead in his jail cell, the authorities said. The apparent cause of death – suicide.

His death comes just days before he was set to stand trail in a $52 million fraud case against him, according to reports. Lapre, who proclaimed himself the “King of Infomercials” had been charged with 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering through his company, “The Greatest Vitamin in the World.”

The 47-year-old was known for his late-night commercials, which were parodied on Saturday Night Live.

The salesman, who was doing time in Arizona, was indicted for scamming millions of dollars from at least 220,000 people between 2004 and 2007. He allegedly set up a pyramid scheme used to sell vitamins that did not provide the health benefits he claimed.

David Spade doing a parody of Don Lapre on Saturday Night Live

Lapre would have faced between $250,000 to $500,000 per count and five to 25 years in federal prison, had he been convicted. Pretty hefty. Guess life wouldn’t seem worth living if you were faced with that kind of sentence.

Lapre was a high-school dropout. In 1990 him and his wife, whom he married in 1988, started a credit repair business called Unknown Concepts. Lapre then began selling a 36-page booklet explaining how to recover a Federal Home Association insurance refund after paying off a home mortgage. On TV infomercials that ran during the early-mid 1990s Lapre claimed that by placing “tiny classified ads” in newspapers he was able to make $50,000 week from his one bedroom apartment.He also began offering “900” phone lines.

Soon he rose to fame with his many “lucrative” and “beneficial” schemes, including “The Greatest Vitamin in the World” and the “Making Money Package”. He was criticized as selling questionable business plans that often did not work for his clients. In 1992, he began broadcasting The Making Money Show with Don Lapre, which promised viewers that they could make money as easily as he had. For several years the show was ranked among the ten most frequently broadcast cable television infomercials.

Consumer watchdog organizations such as Quackwatch have accused Lapre of flogging get-rich-quick schemes. Web sites such as the Ripoff Report have numerous consumer complaints about Lapre and his products and business practices. Lapre, on the other hand, seemed to have not been so vexed about the bad reviews he was getting. The charming man that he evidently was, was once quoted as saying, “…I really don’t give a rat’s ass about what people think about me.”

Images: Wikipedia and Celebrity Smack