PHOENIX -- U.S. Marshals said Donald Lapre, a Phoenix-based infomercial pitchman, was found dead in his cell Sunday at a federal-contract facility in Florence, Ariz.
Lapre was being held on fraud charges linked to his vitamin-selling business. He was arrested in Tempe earlier this year.
Lapre was found about 8:30 a.m., unresponsive in an apparent suicide, said Matt Hershey, supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal.
Officials refused to say which Florence facility Lapre was in and did not immediately know if he was alone in his housing cell.
Prison officials gave lifesaving measures until Florence police and paramedics arrived, said Hershey.
Lapre was wanted by law enforcement after he failed to appear at his U.S. District Court arraignment in June on 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, promotional money laundering and transactional money laundering. A federal grand jury indicted Lapre on fraud-related charges for promoting his vitamin-selling business, Greatest Vitamin in the World of Phoenix. The indictments alleged that the business signed up 226,794 people who were promised lucrative commission checks for selling vitamins and recruiting others to the business.
Customers and investors spent nearly $51.8 million, but only 5,000 victims were paid about $6.4 million in commission, according to a statement released in June by the U.S. Department of Justice. Lapre collected at least $2.2 million from the business from 2004 to 2007.
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 Hershey.
Lapre is perhaps best know for his informercials urging people to buy his "Making Money" package and get rich by placing tiny classified ads in national newspapers. The informercials became such a pop culture fixture that they were once spoofed on "Saturday Night Live."