At first I thought the story was a joke. After reading that the death of Chumlee from Pawn Stars was a hoax (last year the hoax was that the “Old Man” had died), I was skeptical when I saw a news story that TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau was going to prison for ten years for fraud.
Trudeau was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his “decades-long history of fraud.” U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman described him as “deceitful to the very core.”
“He has treated federal court orders as if they were mere suggestions . . . or at most impediments to be sidestepped, outmaneuvered or just ignored,” Guzman said in handing down an unusually lengthy prison term for a contempt conviction. “That type of conduct simply cannot stand.”
Trudeau has been jailed since Nov. 12 when he was convicted by a federal jury of criminal contempt for lying in several infomercials about the contents of his hit book, The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. Prosecutors said he ignored a previous court order by describing the program as easy when it actually called for punishing calorie restrictions and a crippling list of food restrictions.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman has repeatedly found Trudeau in civil contempt for failing to pay anything toward a $37.6 million fine imposed by the Federal Trade Commission in spite of continuing to live a lavish lifestyle.
So Trudeau is going to prison for 10 years. The cost for incarceration is high. According to one study, the city of New York “paid $167,731 to feed, house and guard each inmate” in 2012.
The same people who were defrauded by Trudeau are now going to have to pay for his punishment.
Is there a better way? Yes. First, sell all his assets and distributed them to the people he defrauded.
Second, make him work, no matter what the job or pay, until he pays back the people he defrauded, even if it’s picking up trash, cleaning toilets, mowing grass, picking fruit and vegetables. It’s called restitution.
Restitution is a biblical and constitutional way for people to pay victims of property crimes. Consider what the late Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship said to the Texas legislature in the 1980s:
I told them that the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.
The amazing thing was that afterwards they came up to me one after another and said things like, “That’s a tremendous idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?” I had the privilege of saying to them, “Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.”1
Even after the abolition of slavery, indentured servitude was retained by the Constitution as a legitimate form of punishment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Amendment XIII, Section 1).
Don’t send Kevin Trudeau to jail. Make him pay off his debts to the people he defrauded.
Here are some biblical passages on restitution to consider:
- “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft” (Ex. 22:2-3).
- “If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard. If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution” (Ex. 22:5-6).
- “If a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his” (Ex. 21:3-4).
- “If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep for him, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, an oath before the LORD shall be made by the two of them that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner” (Ex. 22:10-15).
- “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep” (Ex. 22:1).
- “If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double” (Ex. 22:4).
- “Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion’” (2 Sam. 12:5-6).
- “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much. And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham’” (Luke 18:8-9).
- “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Eph. 4:28).
- Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” James M. Boice, ed. Transforming Our World: A Call to Action (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), 154–155. [↩]