Talk:Don Lapre Doug Grant
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The Rise and Fall of Don Lapre, Doug Grant, and
"The Greatest Vitamin in the World"
Timothy Quill, M.D.
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Don Lapre was a fast-talking character who sold "get rich" opportunities for many years. His infomercials described how, while living in a "tiny one-bedroom apartment, "he became a millionaire by placing hundreds of "tiny little ads" in newspapers. Doug Grant claimed to be a "nutritionist" with vast experience in advising people about health and fitness. In 2003, they teamed up to promote "The Greatest Vitamin in the World," which Grant reportedly formulated and Lapre marketed through infomercials and Web sites for about fou years. In 2009, Grant was convicted of manslaughter related to his wife's death and sentenced to five years in prison. In 2011, in connection with his Greatest Vitamin program marketing, Lapre was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering and committed suicide two days before his scheduled trial was to begin. This article examines how this program was marketed and explains why their advice should have been ignored.
Phoenix, Arizona-based Don Lapre was easily recognizable with his youthful good looks and exaggerated mannerisms. He reaped many millions of dollars doing business under a long list of company names, but in 1999, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2000, the Phoenix New Times published a lengthy investigative report  that revealed the following:
- Lapre did not graduate from high school.
- In 1988 he launched a dating service and got married. About two months later he declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- In 1990, he and his wife opened a credit repair business called Unknown Concepts, which led prospective customers to believe that they could obtain credit cards and other benefits but merely provided contact information about companies that might provide them. The Arizona Attorney General's office charged the couple with violating the state's Consumer Fraud act and obtained a consent judgment permanently enjoining from operating, assisting or participating in any credit services organization and from engaging in any misrepresentation, deceptive act or practice, false promise or concealment of material fact in connection with charitable solicitations or marketing of credit repair programs. The defendants were ordered to pay civil penalties and more than $5,000 restitution to complainants.
- Lapre then began selling a 36-page booklet explaining how to recover a Federal Home Association insurance refund after paying off a home mortgage. He also began offering "900" phone lines. According to Lapre, placing newspaper ads enabled him to take in $50,000 per week.
- In 1992, Lapre began broadcasting "The Making Money Show with Don Lapre," which promised viewers that they could make money as easily as he had. For several years the show was ranked among the ten most frequently broadcast cable television infomercials. The principal product was Lapre's "Money Making Secrets," a package of booklets, tapes, and commonsense tips for placing ads and operating a 900-number business. The product was sold through New Strategies, whose parent company was Tropical Beaches. Soon after purchasing the package, buyers would be telemarketed by a sales representatives who offered additional psychic, dating, entertainment, and chat 900 lines, plus free Web sites that together could cost hundred or even thousands of dollars. The real income opportunity was minimal, but many customers complained that they didn't even receive what they paid for.
- In 1994, Lapre was forced to pay the State of Arizona $45,000 for unemployment and withholding taxes that he neglected to file in 1993 and 1994.
- In 1995, the Michigan Attorney General took action against Lapre for failing to register his business. (A Better Business bureau report indicates that Lapre, Bob Smeal, Sandra J. Daly, and New Strategies entered into an Assurance of Discontinuance with an order that provided for restitution, payment of fees and proper registration before doing any further business in Michigan .)
- In 1999, Lapre had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on behalf of himself, New Strategies, Tropical Beaches, Dolphin Media, Don's Making Money, and National Reminder Service. His filing listed assets of $9 million and liabilities of $12.5 million.
- In 1997, the Internal Revenue Service issued a lien of $957,909.49 against Donald and Sally Lapre for failing to pay delinquent taxes.
<IMG SRC="Gifs/lapre.jpg" WIDTH="90" HEIGHT="100" ALIGN="BOTTOM" BORDER="0" NATURALSIZEFLAG="3">
Don Lapre and a 1998 depiction of his "Making Money Secrets" package </TD>
<IMG SRC="Gifs/lapre.jfif" WIDTH="500" HEIGHT="256" ALIGN="BOTTOM" BORDER="0" NATURALSIZEFLAG="3">
</TD> </TR> </TABLE> </CENTER><P><A HREF="http://www.ripoffreport.com/results.asp?q1=ALL&q5=lapre&submit2=Search!&q4=&q6=&q3=&q2=&q7=&searchtype=0">Many former Lapre customers posted descriptions of their experience with the "Making Money" package</A>. We could not find a single person who reported making a profit. Most lost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some reported never selling a single item or receiving a single call from a prospective customer. In 1999, the <A HREF="http://www.phoenix.bbb.org/">Better Business Bureau of Central & Northern Arizona</A> warned:
Following the 1999 bankruptcy filing, the assets of Lapre's businesses were purchased and used to form Universal Business Strategies under the stewardship of Joseph H. Deihl. The new owners continued to air the same Lapre infomercials, continued his tradition of fleecing customers, and quickly earned an unsatisfactory Better Business Bureau rating . In 2000, Lapre himself publicly denounced the new company as unethical on his now-defunct <A HREF="http://web.archive.org/web/20020122195821/www.donlapre.com/">www.donlapre.com</A>. Another of Deihl's endeavors, Karemor International, Inc. had an unsatisfactory BBB record and ran into problems with the Arizona Attorney General. As noted in a BBB report:
Yet another of Deihl's companies, Regency Medical Research, not only earned an unsatisfactory BBB rating but was also ordered to stop making illegal claims its potassium iodide spray product would protect against the development of thyroid cancer if nuclear disaster strikes .
By 2000, Lapre's "Making Money" package was tapped out. Lapre had considered marketing nutritional supplements as early as 1997, so he approached Doug Grant, a "natural" vitamin peddler, for help in developing one. Grant soon formulated a supposedly revolutionary vitamin product. Never known for understatement, Lapre decided to name the product The Greatest Vitamin in the World. His new company, Torica, LLC, began operations in Phoenix in January 2003. A new Don Lapre infomercial soon followed, featuring "The Greatest Vitamin" and Lapre boasting, that "Nothing like this has ever been seen before in the history of the world!" Unlike his previous infomercials, the editing and backgrounds were cheap with lots of repetition.
In addition to working with Lapre, Doug Grant has been associated with at least three other companies: Optimal Health Systems, Infinity2, and VitaQuest International.
<A HREF="http://www.optimalhealthsystems.com/">Optimal Health Systems</A>, which Grant founded, markets its own brand of dietary supplements and operates a retail outlet in Mesa, Arizona. According to the company's Web site site:
The source of Grant's nutrition credential is not stated in the biographical sketches I found online, but I did find one site which stated that it came from American Holistic College of Nutrition. This entity was a nonaccredited correspondence school that taught fringe methods and had no recognized academic standing. (In 1997, it and a sister school were merged to become the <a href="../04ConsumerEducation/Nonrecorg/clayton.html">Clayton College of Natural Health</a>, which also was not accredited.)
Optimal Health's products include Complete Nutrition , which is said to contain "the most absorbed, utilized form of whole food vitamins, minerals, stabilized probiotics and plant enzymes,"  Opti-Cleanse , "the most unique and effective formula for cleansing the bowel and removing unwanted toxins and healthy metals," Optimal Acute, which "rejuvenates the body's natural healing process, and Opti-Care , the "ultimate 'digestive repair formula.'"
<A HREF="http://www.infinity2.com/">Infinity2</A> was a multilevel company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. During the mid-1990s, company publications described him as "a nutritionist by degree, with postgraduate wok in sports medicine, rehabilitation, and fitness training . . . . a Certified Nutritional Microscopist and nationally licensed phlebotomist."  During this period, he was identified as the formulator of Infinity2 products, company president, director of health services, and directory of the company's professional advisory council. The company's leading product was a digestive enzyme capsule promoted with a videotape in which Grant warned that "enzyme deficiencies" were a serious problem that should be solved by taking the product. In its early days, Infinity2's professional division signed up professionals (mostly chiropractors) who used <A HREF="../01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/livecell.html">live-cell analysis</A> to persuade patients that they needed supplements. This procedure, which is bogus, is carried out by placing a drop of blood from the patient's fingertip on a microscope slide under a glass cover slip to keep it from quickly drying out. The slide is viewed at high magnification with a dark-field microscope that forwards the image to a television monitor. Both practitioner and patient can then see the blood cells, which appear as dark bodies outlined in white. The Infinity2 distributor would record what happened to a videotape that featured Grant pontificating about "enzyme deficiencies" and why the company's products were needed . Infinity2 no longer appears to be operating as a company but the Optimal Health Systems site promotes "phase contrast microscopy" as a motivational tool.
VitaQuest International was a multilevel company headquartered in Mesa, Arizona. The company's Web site portrayed Grant as a "prime mover" who developed its "F.I.T.N.E.S.S in a Box," a product with five components:
The VitaQuest site stated that "F.I.T.N.E.S.S in a Box was endorsed by the National Basketball Conditioning Coaches Association (NBCCA). NBCCA was formed in 1992 and had 16 members identified on its Web site. In 2004, Grant appeared to maintain the site, which he registered in May 2003 on behalf of Optimal Health Systems. The site had little other information and sold candy bars.
We don't believe that any of Grant's products can live up to the claims made for them. It is also interesting to note if the claims were true, they would contradict Lapre's claim that The Greatest Vitamin in the World is the best and most complete supplement product that money can buy.
In July 2005, Grant was charged with first-degee murder. According to newspaper reports, in September 2000, Grant reported that he had found his wife, Faylene Eaves Grant, unconscious in a bathtub located in their home in Gilbert, Arizona. After she was pronounced dead, an autopsy determined that the cause was drowning, secondary to intoxication with Zolpidem, a sleeping medication. Suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident led the local police to investigate further . In 2009, Grant was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison [14,15]. He appealed the sentence (not the conviction), but Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the sentence .
The World's Greatest Vitamin?
Lapre's 2004 infomercial claimed that "The Greatest Vitamin in the World" contained "all you need for optimal health" and also presented a great financial opportunity . The infomercial claimed that the ingredients, purchased separately would cost from $184/month for low-quality ingredients to $379/month for highest quality ingredients. Along the way, Lapre hinted that taking the product might reduce the odds of getting cancer. For $35, viewers could become "independent advertisers" who, the infomercial promised, would get paid $1,000 or "up to $200 a month for life" every time they got 20 people to try the vitamin. The information stated that "nothing like this has ever been created until now!" and that making money is easy because all anyone had to do is direct people to their Web site, which was designed to persuade them to buy the product.
The numbers presented in the infomercial simply didn't add up. The vitamin itself retails for $39.95 plus $8.65 for a 30-day supply. Twenty purchases would add up to about $900. Can Lapre afford to pay out $1,000 for the privilege of collecting $900 (much of which must cover his expenses)? Was he banking on most people making fewer sales that would enable him to collect more money than he would pay in commissions? Was he planning not to pay? Did he expect to collect many other charges (for Web sites, servicing accounts, etc) as he had done with previous promotions? Or was he counting on all of these factors?
It was not realistic for distributors to expect to make many sales. An Internet search on February 8, 2004 for "Greatest Vitamin in the World" yielded more than 22,000 "hits" that appeared to reflect the efforts of hundreds if not thousands of independent advertisers. A search of eBay the same day found that none of the 20 bottles still offered for sale had received a single bid and that 30 "previously attempted" offerings had resulted in the sale of only three bottles at prices ranging from 1¢ to 55¢. Stiff competition plus weak demand is a formula for business failure.
At that time, the standard "independent advertiser" Web site stated:
The vitamins in "The Greatest Vitamin" were similar to those available at any drugstore for a few pennies a dose. "Not synthetic" is just an excuse to charge exorbitant prices. Vitamins are chemical compounds and are exactly the same regardless of how they are prepared. Even in the unlikely event that all the vitamin ingredients in The Greatest Vitamin were from natural sources, the multiple chemical processes required to purify and concentrate them would render the vitamins essentially "synthetic."
Considering Lapre's bankruptcy record, I don't believe that "Millions of Dollars in research" (or any scientific research dollars at all) were spent on developing The Greatest Vitamin? Our search of The New England Journal of Medicine archives failed to uncover even a single reference to The Greatest Vitamin in the World. The NBCCA endorsement was meaningless, since, as noted above, it was intimately connected with (if not actually controlled by) Grant and Optimal Health Systems.
The product itself was neither special nor rationally formulated. The ingredients listed on Lapre's Web site included:
A printed brochure, which one of us obtained by calling (800) 544-VITA, improperly suggested that the product was beneficial in preventing or treating stress, obesity, acne, arthritis, diabetes, sleep disorders, cancer, heart disease, digestive problems, stroke, immune weakness, build-up of "toxins, memory problems, loss of vision, depression, "premature aging," and several other problems . The brochure was accompanied by a letter stating that "Most of our diets make it impossible for our bodies to digest all the garbage we eat," a claim that is pure baloney. Visitors to the "Greatest Vitamin" Web sites could access these claims and listen to monthly teleconferences during which Grant promoted the product and invited questions.
Consumer Protection Actions
In July 2005, <a href="jttp://www.casewatch.org/fdawarning/prod/2005/lapre.shtml">the FDA ordered Lapre to stop claiming that his vitamin product can prevent or cure a long list of diseases</a> . Although Lapre made superficial changes in his product descriptions, the FDA <a href="http://www.casewatch.org/fdawarning/prod/2006/lapre2.shtml">warned again</a> in 2006 that consumer testimonials and other statements on his Web site still evidence that the product is intended to treat, cure, prevent, or mitigate diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases .
Commercials aired in January 2006 did not mention Doug Grant or the specific disease claims to which the FDA objected. These infomercials offered to pay $500 each time a distributor you sign up got 20 or more people to try the vitamin. We believe that this made the finances of the entire program even more unworkable than described above, because the company would now have to pay out $1,500 rather than $1,000 for the privilege of collecting $900.
In 2006, Grant added <a href="http://www.thegreatestvitaminintheworld.com/weight_loss/main.php?wlafid=11866">The Greatest Weight Loss Pill in the World Grant</a> to his product line and begun doing business as "Saving Lives Across America," which peddled a few more products and similar far-fetched earning opportunity claims.
In 2006, the Better Business Bureau reported:
In 2007, Lapre shut down Greatest Vitamin after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service served a warrant on the business and federal investigators served a warrant at Lapre's Phoenix home.
In 2008, the Maryland Department of Securities banned <a href="http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/kline.html"></a> Lapre and The Greatest Vitamin in the World, LLC from continuing to do business in Maryland. The cease-and-desist order states that the company was not registered to sell business opportunities and had failed to provide refunds to dissatisfied customers as promised .
In June 2011, Lapre was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The indictment alleged:
On October 2, 2011, two days before his trial was scheduled to begin, Lapre was found dead in his prison cell . Press reports indicate that he committed suicide by cutting his neck with a razor..
Dr. Quill practices anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire and is a professor at the Dartmouth Medical School. He has a lifelong interest in "alternative medicine" and has taught and lectured on the subject for many years.
This article was revised on October 7, 2011.