Ex-wife of TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau tells Chicago judge he had gold bars, says she’s ‘very scared’ of him

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CHICAGO — The ex-wife of TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau told a Chicago federal judge Thursday she saw him handling dozens of gold bars over the course of their marriage and that she’s “scared” for her life now that he’s turned against her.

Trudeau is fighting an attempt by federal regulators to have him thrown back in jail for allegedly lying about his assets in an attempt to avoid paying the whopping $37.6 million civil penalty he owes for lying about his controversial weight-loss book.

Nataliya Babenko told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman that Trudeau had gold bars in a duffel bag when they were stopped by security at O’Hare International Airport years ago, kept stacks of gold bars in boxes in his closet at their Oak Brook mansion, and stashed more bars in a safe at his home office in Zurich.

“I feel like (handling gold bars) was almost like a theme for his life ... like smoking a cigar every day,” Babenko testified during a hotly contested civil contempt hearing, where Gettleman is deciding whether to throw Trudeau back in jail.

Trudeau has claimed in sworn depositions that he gave gold to Babenko during their marriage, which was annulled last year. But when an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission asked her Thursday whether that happened, she answered in a flat tone, “Never.”

She also denied Trudeau’s claim that her father had threatened to kill him. “Never,” she said. “This is outrageous.”

At the end of her testimony, over the strenuous objections of Trudeau’s attorneys, Babenko told the judge that facing her ex-husband in court was “excruciating” because of what he has put her through with his lies.

“So much abuse, so much oppression,” she said, as Trudeau sat at a defense table, looking right at her. “I’m very scared for my life ... from the day he has thrown me into this false narrative.

Babenko is expected to give continued testimony via Zoom at a later date, when Trudeau’s attorneys will get the opportunity to cross-examine her.

Babenko, who was born in Ukraine and now lives in Los Angeles, was a surprise witness in a never-ending legal drama that’s been unfolding in Chicago’s federal courthouse since 2004, when the FTC first filed suit against Trudeau over the outrageous claims he made about what was in his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

More than 800,000 people bought the book that Trudeau claimed was filled with “easy” weight-loss techniques when it called for prescription injections of a hormone found only in pregnant women, a month of colon hydrotherapy and a 500-calorie-per-day diet.

After Trudeau failed to pay a penny of the $37.6 million fine, leading to a civil contempt order by Gettleman.

Separately, Trudeau, 59, was convicted by a jury in 2014 of criminal contempt for violating a consent order in which he promised to stop making the misleading ads touting the book. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman, and was released from a minimum-security federal prison camp in Alabama in January.

Since his release, lawyer for the FTC have told Gettleman they believe the self-described infomercial king is still hiding potentially millions of dollars in assets overseas, and has failed to provide a detailed accounting of his assets, including any cash, gold bars, jewelry, vehicles and safe deposit boxes.

At a hearing last month, FTC attorney Jonathan Cohen revealed newly discovered emails that he said show Trudeau was seeking to ship and store 300 pounds of gold bars and other precious metals in Switzerland in 2013, the same time he was crying poor to the court.

In addition to the repayment of the judgment, Gettleman has also ordered Trudeau to show why he should not be held in contempt “yet again” for failing to report to the court when he was released from incarceration, which he had promised to do.

Trudeau’s attorney, Giel Stein, accused the FTC of jumping the gun, saying Trudeau “is acutely aware of the consequences here” and only wants to know how much he still owes so he can figure out how to begin repaying it.

Meanwhile, the FTC called Babenko on Thursday, to rebut some of Trudeau’s claims in his recent deposition about what he knew about any gold bars.

Babenko recalled first seeing her husband with gold when they were stopped by Transportation Security Administration officers at O’Hare in the late 2000s. She said he also had gold bars with him when they took a later trip to Guatemala.

In 2010, she said, she and Trudeau went to a Northern Trust bank branch in downtown Chicago, where Trudeau opened up two safe deposit boxes, one in his name and another, larger box in her name. She said he loaded the box with something in a private room outside her presence, then came and put the “full, heavy” box in the slot.

“I didn’t know what it was for,” she said. “I really didn’t need a safe deposit box.”

Court records show Babenko filed for a marriage annulment in Los Angeles last year, which was granted late last year. The basis for the annulment, she testified Thursday, was “fraud” on the part of Trudeau.