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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014

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Donald Lapre's tiny classified ads infomercial ran on cable and regular TV stations across the nation.
Donald Lapre's tiny classified ads infomercial ran on cable and regular TV stations across the nation.

There are tragic stories in the world of infomercials

What he stumbled on was a great way to make money, buying little classified ads in newspapers. Then he told everyone watching that for just a small amount of money, he'd share the system he used so that you could make money, too.

Donald Lapre sold tiny classified ads, and his infomercial that ran on cable and regular TV stations across the nation promised that you could learn three ways to make money. The price on his system was only $39.95.

On Monday, U.S. Marshals reported that Lapre was found dead in his cell in an apparent suicide while in federal custody. Investigation continues.

In June, a grand jury indicted Lapre on 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering, according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to government reports, Lapre defrauded $52 million from 220,000 victims through a promotion of "The Greatest Vitamin in the World."

When insomnia hits, it is easy to get wrapped up in these late night infomercials. You hear the compelling pitch, the way they set up a story, and how their product or service can make your life better. There are some great, legitimate goods sold this way. However, if the deal sounds too good to be true, sometimes it is.

This is a tragic story, both for Lapre and the 220,000 who allegedly got bilked out of millions.