Alleged Phoenix scammer Donald Lapre, owner of the company The Best Vitamin in the World, has been indicted for allegedly swindling thousands of people out of more than $50 million by having them buy his essentially "worthless" franchises.
In a 41-count indictment returned last week, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Lapre's company sold useless, Internet-based businesses to more than 220,000 victims.
According to the feds, Lapre used nationally televised infomercials to rake in money from unsuspecting people looking to buy the product, join the company, or start a vitamin business of their own.
The charges against him include mail fraud, conspiracy, wire fraud, promotional money-laundering, and transactional money-laundering.
"Home based-business opportunities have a certain appeal, especially in today's economy," says Pete Zegarac, Inspector in Charge of the Phoenix Division U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "Consumers should be cautious of schemes which promise to bring in large amounts of money with little or no effort on their part."
According to the indictment, at the height of Lapre's game, he'd enlisted about 226,794 people to sell his "worthless" products through individual sites of their own.
Lapre also is charged with providing investors in his company (known as "independent advertisers") with fabricated documents of vitamin sales.
Lapre would offer bogus incentives for his sellers, like the promise that "each time you get 20 new people to try our vitamin, we send you a check for $1,000!"
According to the indictment, during the course of the scheme, those scammed were defrauded of approximately $51,816,308.67.
Lapre's arraignment is set for June 22 in federal court in Phoenix before Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson.
If you think you may have been scammed by Lapre, you can contact authorities by clicking here.
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See the entire indictment below,