Local News

Founder Of Weight Loss Resort Takes Cash, Leaves Town

Posted May 22, 2003

— A well-known weight loss center has closed its doors, days after employees claimed the founder took off with thousands of dollars.

Employees said Pierre Sabourin, the man behind

OverweightPeople.com

, a site featured in

Time

magazine, and "The Living Center," a diet resort profiled in

The Herald Sun

, has disappeared with their money and their trust.

"As of tomorrow we're packing up and shipping out," said David Wetnight, a Living Center employee. "[Sabourin] made promises and all kinds of statements -- none of which could ever go through."

Among the promises advertised to customers: stress-free weight loss at the diet resort located at the Millenium Hotel in Durham. For $2,000 up front and over $1,000 a week, Sauborin promised dramatic results.

Employees and customers said the program delivered, but for reasons that are not clear, they said Sabourin left town, leaving his staff underpaid and his patients overweight.

"He told me he had ties to the Mafia," Wetnight said.

Employees said the only thing Sabourin left behind was what they call a bizarre e-mail. In it he wrote: "I decided for my well being to take off. I took $7,700 from the bank accounts for quick get-away cash. "

"To me it sounds like the classic case of a con artist," said customer Bob Gailbraith.

Gailbraith committed 6 weeks and thousands of dollars to The Living Center program. He said he lost 18 pounds along with his faith in Sabourin.

"I think the tragedy behind this whole thing is that people who were vulnerable trusted him," he said.

Employees said the

United States Securities and Exchange Commission

is looking for Sabourin.

Sabourin, who reportedly weighs 500 pounds, started the company during his own battle with weight loss.

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