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Charles Givens; Promoter of Get-Rich Plans

<i> Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Charles J. Givens, whose TV infomercials, books and motivational speeches on how to become wealthy were the focus of several lawsuits and fraud investigations, has died at 57.

Givens, who died Sunday of prostate cancer, built a multimillion-dollar empire in the late 1980s, writing such books as the best-selling “Wealth Without Risk” and becoming a fixture on cable television infomercials. He flew around the country in a private jet and arrived at lectures in a chauffeur-driven, gold-trimmed white limousine.

In the 1990s, his companies, the Charles J. Givens Organization and later International Administrative Services, were the targets of dozens of lawsuits and government investigations. The Internal Revenue Service demanded back taxes from his purportedly nonprofit, tax-exempt Charles J. Givens Foundation, claiming it had paid his lavish living expenses in the mid-1980s.

In May 1996, a San Diego Superior Court jury ordered Givens to refund $14.1 million and ordered him to stop misrepresenting the success of his moneymaking strategies. The verdict came in a class-action suit filed on behalf of about 29,000 disgruntled Californians who paid to join Givens’ organization between 1986 and 1993.

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Among Givens’ simplistic strategies for becoming wealthy was the advice to drop insurance to cut costs. In 1993, he settled a lawsuit by a widow whose husband was killed in a head-on collision caused by an uninsured driver.

Later that year, Givens settled a fraud and deceptive trade practices lawsuit filed by Florida’s attorney general, agreeing to refund $175,000 to 135 disgruntled customers and pay the state’s investigative costs.

Confronted with all the litigation, Givens’ company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

He lost control of his company in bankruptcy court in July 1997.

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