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U.S. judge orders TV pitchman jailed for failing to pay judgment

By David Bailey

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Chicago on Tuesday ordered infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau back to jail for failing to pay a nearly $38 million judgment over false promises he made in a weight-loss book.

Trudeau, 50, had been jailed overnight in September for failing to disclose assets and cooperate with a receiver and Judge Robert Gettleman had given him "another last chance" in an order entered October 16 to comply by Tuesday or be held again.

Trudeau and his attorneys urged on Tuesday that he not be jailed for contempt, but Gettleman declined and he was taken into custody in the civil case, brought by the Federal Trade Commission, FTC attorney Jonathan Cohen said.

"Certainly there is no guarantee that coercive sanctions will succeed, but coercive sanctions present the best possibility for redress that consumers have," Cohen said.

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 Trudeau ignored explicit court warnings and had complied with none of the conditions set to avoid a jailing on contempt. A status hearing is set for Thursday in federal court in Chicago.

Trudeau, whose marketing business is based in Chicago, has repeatedly insisted he is broke and cannot pay the judgment. Gettleman ordered Trudeau held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

On Monday, Trudeau's lawyers 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.

In his October 16 order, Gettleman found that Trudeau had attempted to conceal foreign bank accounts and assets under his control and had failed to account for millions of dollars in commissions he received.

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 agreed, ordering Trudeau in 2010 to pay nearly $38 million based on the number of books sold.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech)

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