CBS This Morning aired a rather disturbing segment on how the Trump Network swindled people out of thousands of dollars on lofty goals of profiting from a recession-proof venture involving dietary supplements customized to your needs based on urine samples.
Julianna Goldman reported that Eileen and George Kelly were some of the victims of this scam, which has cost them $10,000. The retired college professors admitted that they were sold on the product, which was pitched during the economic downturn in 2009. Looking back, these two individuals are embarrassed that they ever took part in this scheme.
The billionaire magnate said that this scheme could allow people to “opt-out” of the recession. Yes, some people, about 20,000 independent sales representatives, bought into the plan. Trump also traveled for two years to bolster the Trump Network grew out of a company called Ideal Health, which Trump bought in 2009. He lent his name and brand for a fee of $1 million.
Goldman featured a Harvard expert on supplements, Dr. Peter Cohen, who said that this formula for dietary pills isn’t based on science. She also reported that another Harvard expert David Ludwig was “mortified” to hear that his name was attached to this company without his permission. The Trump Network wanted to garner an endorsement from him, but he didn’t sign off on it. He later received an apology from the Trump Network for misappropriating his name to their products. Goldman later said that her network had contacted over 30 former sales representatives, most of whom said they believed in these products, but after calculating costs for seminars, trainings, and conferences–they aren’t sure if they had made any money. Half said they still support Trump, but most told Goldman they were “kept in the dark about looming problems at the company.” The Trump Network only had a shelf life of about two years before folding up shop.
Of course, Trump declined to be interviewed by CBS, with his lawyers saying he did not own the company, make the product, or endorse the merchandise. The latter part turned out to be a lie.
Yet, Ian Tuttle of National Review went through the whole saga surrounding Ideal Health, its owners, who later became Trump Network executives, and how they found themselves "selling" Donald Trump and dietary supplements back in March:
In early 2009, Trump purchased Ideal Health, Inc., founded in 1997 outside Boston by Lou DeCaprio and brothers Todd and Scott Stanwood, who became Trump Network executives. They got to work selling two products: Donald Trump and nutritional supplements. “If you know anything about network marketing — and anything about the power of the Trump brand — you’ll know this is an extraordinary opportunity,” Scott Stanwood wrote on his LinkedIn page. Meanwhile, in a promotional video for the Trump Network, DeCaprio touted the “best nutritional formula in the world.”
Customers would purchase the PrivaTest kit, collect a urine sample, and ship the sample to a lab, which would analyze it and develop a “Custom Essentials” kit of nutritional supplements “calibrated . . . to reflect your unique nutrient needs.”
Unsurprisingly, the Trump Network did not cite the portion of the article that warned against “special-purpose multivitamins” and diagnostic tests from Internet companies, and it also did not emphasize the FDA-required disclaimer at the bottom of the page in fine print: “The statements on these pages have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
By the mid 2000s, Dr. Stephen Barrett — founder of the website Quackwatch, which aims to debunk health-care fraud — had criticized the PrivaTest, remarking that “no single test can provide a rational basis for dietary supplement recommendations.” Recently, Dr. Pieter Cohen, a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance who reviewed Trump Network marketing materials for health-care site Stat News, concluded: “They make an outrageous statement, which is that this testing and supplement regimen, this process, are a necessity for anyone who wants to stay healthy. That’s quite insane.”
But it was profitable. The PrivaTest and a month’s supply of Custom Essentials cost $139.95, an additional month’s supply cost $69.95, and to keep one’s “unsurpassed individual nutritional support” up to date, the Trump Network recommended repeating the PrivaTest every nine months — at a price of $99.95, plus shipping and handling.
In 2004, a Freedom of Information Act request turned up nearly 60 pages of complaints about Ideal Health filed with the Federal Trade Commission. “The consumer is complaining on Ideal Health,” reads one. “The consumer states that she was working for this company trying to sell their dietary supplement products. The consumer states that she paid the company $5,412.50 for promotional leads, and marketing programs. The consumer states that the company never did the promotional leads, and took the consumers [sic] money and ran.” That complaint was filed in 2001.
If the Trump Network belongs on the ever-expanding chronicle of Trump failures (Trump Airlines, Trump Mortgage, Trump Magazine, and many more), it’s with an important qualification: The Trump Network’s losers were not Donald Trump, but mainly the more than 21,000 people who invested in the company as recruiters, hoping to make it big, swayed entirely by Donald Trump’s promises.