Phoenix-based television pitchman Don Lapre, 47, who was accused of cheating more than 220,000 people out of nearly $52 million, was found dead in his jail cell in Arizona Sunday morning. It is believed that he committed suicide.
Lapre's body was found at approximately 8:30 a.m. local time, in a holding facility in Florence, Ariz. Lapre was charged with 41 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and promotional money laundering, through a company known as The Greatest Vitamin in the World.
In an example of the nature of charges, prosecutors said Lapre sold worthless vitamin pills that couldn't live up to the claims the company made in advertisements. The company made the online sales from April 2003 through to October 2007.
The investigation into Lapre's affairs began in 2007 and lasted until June this year, when he was indicted on the fraud-related charges. But he failed to appear for his hearing in June, forcing U.S. marshals to arrest him, in Tempe, Ariz. His trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the marshal's office, Matt Hershey, told Reuters authorities were investigating the death but declined to comment on the possibility of a suicide, citing the ongoing investigation. This is not the first time, according to reports, that Lapre had tried to commit suicide.
According to the grand jury indictment handed up in June, more than 220,000 people signed up for Lapre's scheme, losing an estimated $51.8 million.
I did not have the perfect company, but never once did I allow one thing to be done that would violate any law. Nevertheless, because the majority of people did not make money ... I am left to fight a battle that will for sure destroy what energy I have left inside, Lapre wrote on his Web site, donlapre.com.