Donald Lapre, a Phoenix-based pitchman most known for his TV attempts to sell “The Greatest Vitamin in the World,” was found dead in his Arizona prison cell on Sunday, just two days before his $52 million fraud trial was schedule to begin.
Lapre, 47, who faced 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering with his vitamin-selling business, allegedly signed up 226,794 people who were promised lucrative commission checks for selling the supplements and recruiting others to do the same.
According to a statement released in June by the U.S. Department of Justice, customers and investors spent nearly $51.8 million, but only 5,000 victims were paid about $6.4 million in commission.
Lapre, who told infomercial viewers that he was making $50,000 a week from his one-bedroom apartment, reportedly collected at least $2.2 million from the business from 2004 to 2007.
Had he been convicted, Don would have faced between $250,000 to $500,000 for each of his 41 counts and five to 25 years in federal prison.
Officials did not detail how Lapre may have killed himself, and said they likely would not release the name of the facility in which he was held.
Previously, the U.S. Department of Justice stated Lapre may have suffered from anxiety and depression and warned that he may have had suicidal thoughts.
“We are not yet releasing how he might have injured himself. More likely tomorrow there will be more information,” said Matt Hershey, supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal.