SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 3, 2011

Infomercial creator pleads guilty, will get year for tax fraud

BEVERLY — As he did in his many infomercials during the past decade, Donald Barrett Jr. sat in front of a microphone yesterday, but this time he was answering questions from a federal judge about to hear Barrett plead guilty to tax and consumer fraud charges yesterday.

After telling U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns about his brief stint in college and five years making pizza, Barrett, 36, explained his next career move.

"I read a book, and I got into marketing and I started marketing products," Barrett said.

"And that's what brings us here today?" Stearns responded.

"Yes, your honor," Barrett replied.

Moments later, Barrett pleaded guilty to failing to report $573,000 in income from one of the products he sold in program-length advertisements produced at the Beverly businesses he founded and co-owned: ITV and Direct Marketing Concepts.

He also pleaded guilty to selling a product touted as a preventative for cancer and arthritis without any approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

When he is sentenced in July, Barrett is expected to receive a prison term of one year and one day, under the terms of a plea agreement between his lawyers, federal prosecutors, and regulators from the FDA and the IRS.

He could have faced a total of four years and $500,000 in fines had he been convicted at trial. He was charged last week by federal prosecutors in a complaint after agreeing to waive his right to a grand jury proceeding and indictment.

Barrett, who grew up in Saugus and lives in Plymouth now, remains free on $5,000 unsecured bond, with a condition that he surrender his passport.

He'll be back in court for sentencing on July 27.

He and his lawyer, William Kettlewell, declined to comment after yesterday's plea hearing.

It's just the latest blow to a one-time infomercial empire built on what another federal judge has called "deceptive" claims about supposedly natural cures for conditions ranging from obesity to cancer.

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