TV pitchman accused of defrauding victims out of $52M

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PHOENIX -- A grand jury has indicted a Phoenix-based TV pitchman accused of running a nationwide scheme to bilk thousands of people out of millions of dollars.

Donald Lapre, 47, is charged with 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, promotional money laundering and transactional money laundering.

The indictment alleges that Lapre oversaw and promoted a scheme to sell essentially worthless Internet-based businesses to more than 200,000 victims through his company, The Greatest Vitamin in the World.

"Mr. Lapre used incessant nationally televised info-mercials to hawk his vitamins and worthless websites as a way to get rich quick without working hard," said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. "His scams swindled a sea of victims, but thanks to the efforts of the Postal Inspection Service and the IRS, he will face justice."

Federal prosecutors said at least 220,000 victims were defrauded of nearly $52 million.

"Home-based business opportunities have a certain appeal, especially in today's economy," said 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."

Lapre is scheduled to appear for an arraignment on June 22.