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Judge to TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau: Pay up or go back to jail

KevTrudeau leaves federal court Chicago 2010.  |  Sun-Times files

Kevin Trudeau leaves federal court in Chicago in 2010. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: December 5, 2013 2:14PM

A federal judge has warned convicted felon and silver-tongued TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau that he’ll be headed back to jail if he doesn’t help the court quickly get to the bottom of just how rich he is.

Trudeau — a convicted credit card fraudster turned best-selling diet-book author — claims he is broke and has yet to pay a cent of a $38 million fine Judge Robert Gettleman ordered him to pay the Federal Trade Commission five years ago for flouting a court-ordered ban on making false claims in his infomercials.

But Gettleman recently wrote that he has seen “evidence that Trudeau is living much more like a prince than the pauper he professes to be.” That includes Trudeau’s use of top-dollar attorneys and allegations that he drives a $340,000 Bentley and employs two personal chefs and a butler at his suburban Chicago home.

Gettleman froze the assets of multiple businesses and off-shore accounts that Trudeau allegedly controls and held Trudeau in contempt on Friday. On Tuesday, the judge told the tanned, sharp-suited Trudeau, 50, that he faces a “much harsher result” if he and his lawyers continue to gripe.

“I’m trying to help him avoid that result,” Gettleman told lawyer Kimball Anderson, urging Trudeau to “make every effort” to help a court-appointed receiver determine how much he’s worth or face jail time.

The judge’s decision to freeze Trudeau’s accounts means his lawyers from the white-shoe law firm of Winston & Strawn can’t collect their hefty fees — a situation they complained about loudly Tuesday, saying it impacts their defense of Trudeau at a separate criminal contempt trial next month.

But in a backhanded reference to the millions of dollars worth of free work that Winston & Strawn did for disgraced former Gov. George Ryan, Gettleman noted that the firm had done “admirable pro bono cases and has represented some rather important people on that basis in the past.”

Though Gettleman stopped short of insisting that Trudeau’s lawyers work without pay forever, he warned them that he was “not sure I’d let you out if you wanted to withdraw.”

Trudeau’s longstanding legal difficulties stem from his book, “The Weight-Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,” which he falsely advertised as giving “easy” solutions to weight loss.

He previously drew Gettleman’s ire in 2010 when he urged his followers to email the judge en masse on his behalf.

If he ever pays the fine, the money will be shared among readers who bought the book.

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