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Vitamin Huckster Donald Lapre Found Dead in Prison Cell; Suicide Suspected

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Alleged Phoenix scammer Donald Lapre, the owner of the company The Best Vitamin in the World, was found dead in his prison cell in Florence yesterday morning in what authorities say was an apparent suicide.

Lapre, who was indicted in June for fraud, was found unresponsive in his cell in a federal-contract facility in Florence about 8:30 a.m., according to U.S Marshals.

Prison staff tried to revive Lapre until Florence police and paramedics showed up, but he ultimately died.

It's unclear how Lapre killed himself -- supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal Matt Hershey tells New Times the death is still under investigation. However, he says, suicide is suspected.

In a 41-count indictment returned in June, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Lapre's company sold useless, Internet-based businesses to more than 220,000 victims.

The charges against him included mail fraud, conspiracy, wire fraud, promotional money-laundering, and transactional money-laundering.

According to the indictment, he'd enlisted about 226,794 people to sell his "worthless" products through individual sites of their own.

Lapre, the feds allege, offered bogus incentives for his sellers, such as promises 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 swindled out of a whopping $51,816,308.67.

Following the indictments, Lapre didn't show up for his arraignment and became a wanted man.

While on the lam, Lapre was hiding out in a 24/7 Lifetime Fitness center in Tempe, where he supposedly attempted suicide by knifing his leg, trying to hit his femoral artery in order to bleed out (see our story on Lapre's failed suicide attempt here).

Lapre failed to kill himself, though, and was taken into custody a few days after skipping his arraignment.

More information about Lapre's death will likely be made available tomorrow. Check back for updates.

Kholood Eid contributed to this post.  

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