Hot Product

Gary Lewellyn sits behind a massive wooden desk holding a telephone to his ear, but says nothing. From his Carrollton warehouse, the chairman and chief executive officer of Performance Nutrition, Inc. is a guest on a nationally syndicated USA Today Radio Network talk show, "Here's To Your Health." But even as the star of a thinly veiled infomercial he paid for, Lewellyn has to wait for the conclusion of a commercial break before he can tout his company's newest product, KidsPLEX Jr.

It's a rare moment of silence for the charismatic salesman.
Selling a month's supply for $29.95, Lewellyn promotes the powdered food supplement--on radio stations, television shows, and anywhere he can attract attention--as a possible treatment for the troubling and growing population of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). As the concern about A.D.D. grows, Lewellyn finds he is getting more free air time--on news and talk shows--to push his product. KidsPLEX, Lewellyn claims, represents a "safe option" for children faced with the prospect of taking Ritalin, the central nervous system stimulant now widely--and controversially--prescribed by doctors for A.D.D.

If Lewellyn, who also markets a food supplement for athletes, has truly found an alternative to Ritalin, his timing couldn't be better.

In recent months, Ritalin has become an ominous buzzword among parents of school-age kids. ABC's 20/20, CBS's 60 Minutes, Newsweek, and hundreds of newspapers have all recently run stories debating concerns in the medical and educational communities about the overuse of Ritalin and the frequent misdiagnosis of A.D.D. Although neurological, the disease is not linked to any specific physical brain characteristic or genetic pattern. Instead, doctors evaluate behavior to determine if a child has A.D.D.

Newsweek's March 18, 1996, cover, "Ritalin: Are We Overmedicating Our Kids?" reported that most pediatricians spent less than half an hour evaluating a child before prescribing Ritalin. Newsweek suggested more than 1 million U.S. children were on Ritalin. Another study, published in the Hastings Center Press, estimated 2 million children were taking the drug. All the evidence suggests an explosive increase--more than 500 percent in five years, according to Hastings Center Press--in use of the drug. Critics say many kids needlessly suffer the unpleasant side effects of Ritalin--sleeplessness, loss of appetite, possibly stunted growth, and the risky, habit-forming relationship with pharmaceuticals--when they could just as easily see their situations improve with better parenting, classroom methods, or, Lewellyn claims, regular use of his product, KidsPLEX.

"Put it in a blender, add a banana; if it doesn't taste good, it won't work," Lewellyn advises, finishing out his hour on the radio talk show.

Moments after Lewellyn says goodbye to the show's host, Lewellyn's secretary enters his office, her hand extended with a yellow sticky note. All 12 of the company's 800 lines had lit up immediately following the broadcast.

"When it's there, it's hot," he says, holding up the Newsweek cover. The 47-year-old Lewellyn expects his 8-year-old publicly traded company, which reported $4.2 million in revenues last year, to sell $50 million worth of food supplements in the next couple years--with a good portion of that increase coming from KidsPLEX sales. But, as with all products in the burgeoning food-supplement industry, KidsPLEX is subject to neither U.S. Department of Agriculture nor Food and Drug Administration efficacy tests. Instead, users must decide for themselves if the product is effective.

Lewellyn says he intends to announce, within the next few weeks, a deal with a Midwestern company that has transformed an abandoned Sam's Club retail facility into an amateur sports arena, offering three-on-three basketball and in-line skating. With that so far publicly unnamed company, Lewellyn plans to renovate in the next two years some 16 to 24 empty former Sam's stores nationwide, including an abandoned building in Irving. The arenas will also serve as retail outlets for manufacturers of sporting goods and food supplements like his own.

To realize these bold proposals, Lewellyn needs money. He has scheduled a private placement of $1.5 million in equity for his company, which has some 8 million shares outstanding and trades in the OTC (Over the Counter) market. By fall, Lewellyn, who says he has a roughly 10 percent equity interest in Performance Nutrition, also wants to register his company with NASDAQ.

But Performance Nutrition's success also works against Lewellyn: The more people who hear about his product, the greater the possibility that someone will remember his past.

In 1982, Lewellyn, then a 32-year-old star stockbroker who had managed the Des Moines offices for E.F. Hutton & Co., was convicted in federal court of embezzling $16.7 million from the tiny Humboldt, Iowa, bank where his father was president. The Des Moines Register referred to Lewellyn's misdeeds as "one of the most spectacular white-collar crimes in state history." His father's financial institution, The First National Bank of Humboldt, folded after Lewellyn's scam.

Lewellyn used the money he took from the bank in an elaborate scheme to pump up the price of certain stocks, ultimately prompting the Securities and Exchange Commission to bar him permanently from the brokerage business.

For three weeks before he finally turned himself in, Lewellyn eluded authorities after driving to Las Vegas in his lemon-yellow Rolls Royce. He attracted the attention of Time, The New York Times, and publications around the world when he tried to use gambling addiction as a defense. A federal judge quashed that strategy before the trial.

Lewellyn served five years in federal prisons. He spent the majority of his time at the minimum-security federal facility at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and got out in 1987. One year later, he started Performance Nutrition with money from old business friends, including Ed Campbell, the husband of a former Iowa gubernatorial nominee, and Larry Scalise, a former Iowa attorney general and a prominent criminal-defense lawyer.

"I knew that this story was coming," Lewellyn says when asked about his criminal past. "You can't be front and center all the way without someone seeing you and saying, 'Boy, that name looks familiar.'"

By raising his company's profile, Lewellyn knows he risks scrutiny of himself and his past. "I am going to have to dot every 'i' and cross every 't,'" he says. But Lewellyn, who talks openly about his criminal activities in 1982 and authorized his lawyer, David Barrett, to waive attorney-client privilege to discuss that period with the Observer, says he hopes others will see his him as "a guy who made some very serious mistakes and paid a tremendous price. In life, everybody is going to get slapped along the way. The question is, What do you do to try to get yourself back?"

Lewellyn now understands the consequences of his actions, he says.
And he has some influential sympathizers. "He has paid his debt to society," says Lewellyn's friend, lawyer, and Performance Nutrition investor and former Iowa attorney general Scalise. "He deserves a second chance."

Better make that a third chance. Since he left prison in 1987, Lewellyn has gotten "slapped," as he puts it, again.

In December 1994, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Lewellyn in Oklahoma federal court, alleging that the Performance Nutrition chief executive, when he merged his company with a publicly traded company controlled by Charles Bazarian, participated in an illegal scheme to boost stock prices. The SEC alleged that Lewellyn and Bazarian, a former Oklahoma savings-and-loan operator who has been convicted on four other, unrelated fraud charges, hosted weekend bashes--complete with prostitutes for stockbrokers and athletic coaches--as part of a game plan to inflate the company's stock price. In its initial complaint, the SEC sought to have Lewellyn barred from ever managing a publicly held company.

Lewellyn, who expects to settle soon with the federal agency, downplays the severity of the SEC's civil allegations. He argues that the agency has failed to prove that he boosted the prices or even profited from any hyping that might have occurred. "The major reason I was named in that lawsuit was because of [the conviction in] 1982," Lewellyn says.

Lewellyn has also locked horns with the San Antonio nutritionist who helped him develop the KidsPLEX formula three years ago. The nutritionist, Billie Sahley, claims that Lewellyn misrepresents KidsPLEX by claiming it is a substitute for Ritalin.

Lewellyn says he makes no across-the-board claims but rather presents KidsPLEX as an "option," to "some Ritalin users." He says Sahley is just bitter because Lewellyn denied her exclusive rights to distribute the powdered supplement. Lewellyn has filed suit against Sahley, seeking to get a court order barring her from interfering with the promotional material he has already paid to develop using her name and likeness.

You would think that Gary Lewellyn, who is looking for investors in his company and markets for his product, would avoid the spotlight. He is, after all, a convicted felon, a two-time target of the SEC, and an entrepreneur in the unregulated world of food supplements whose advertising has been attacked by the very nutritionist who helped invent his hottest product. Instead, he aggressively promotes himself as much as his products.

"Without Gary," says Lewellyn's in-house publicist David Wynne, "Performance Nutrition is a bunch of powder in a can."

The picture window in Lewellyn's Carrollton low-rise office overlooks only a small parking lot with not a yellow Rolls in sight. The reformed Lewellyn pays minimal attention to acquiring the perks of a chief executive. Someone has taped a message to one automatic-drip coffee machine: "For Mr. Lewellyn only."

Lewellyn favors wide, loud ties with sports motifs that match his office decor. On one wall, a display rack holds the caps of his favorite professional and college sports teams. On the other side of the room, a bronze wall clock bears the message, "Don't let the bastards grind you down."

When newspaper reporters snooped around his hometown after the 1982 indictments, Lewellyn's former Humboldt High School classmates described Lewellyn as a "teddy bear." And the tall, athletically built Lewellyn still comes across as a relaxed, self-confident, and genial ex-jock.

In both high school and college, Lewellyn excelled at sports, playing both golf and football. At Humboldt High School, he was elected president of the student council, voted the outstanding senior boy, and awarded a special honor for high moral character---things that were held up to national news reporters trying to figure out why Humboldt's pride had stumbled on such a grand scale.

In 1970, Lewellyn graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in physical education. For his first two years out of college, he coached small-town Iowa high-school football teams. In 1972 Lewellyn began his career as a broker, working for a few years for a local firm, Dain Kalman and Quayle, and then switching to the E.F. Hutton offices in Des Moines.

It was at E.F. Hutton where Lewellyn first ran afoul of the securities-industry watchdogs--and, he says, lost his innocence. In 1979, the New York Stock Exchange suspended his license for 90 days when it discovered Lewellyn had fabricated trade reports to conceal a series of losing options transactions.

Resigning from E.F. Hutton after that episode, Lewellyn bounced back and formed his own brokerage company in 1980, calling it G.V. Lewellyn & Company. "I was working in a vacuum," Lewellyn recalls. "No one really knew what I was doing."

Lewellyn became a leading member of the business community and an active Republican Party member developing connections to some of the most powerful men in Iowa. It was also about this time that he found he had an appetite for gambling. He began making regular trips to Las Vegas, where he sometimes lost tens of thousands at the tables. And Humboldt's native son, a loving husband and father of two, also took a mistress.

His big downfall came, he says, as the result of one big win--not at the casinos, but on Wall Street. On a Friday afternoon in 1980, Lewellyn made $1 million by going long on 1,000 Treasury-bond contracts, which went up or down, at the time, when the Federal Reserve Bank made its weekly announcement about the shift in the nation's money supply. (The Fed no longer issues that information in the same manner.) Still, the visceral effect on him was little different than winning big at the casino.

"Making over a million on one piece of information was a horrible thing to happen," Lewellyn says. "You begin to think it wasn't luck; it was skill. All of sudden you begin to almost have a sense of invincibility. Everything that you touch is going to be OK. You almost get lured into a sense of fantasyland, and then reality strikes and you suffer some significant setbacks. Once you suffer those, I guess the question is how you deal with those setbacks. Frankly, I didn't deal with them in the proper manner."

As the weeks passed, Lewellyn says he continued to trade on the Treasury-bond contracts but kept losing in nightmarish proportions to what he had won. He dug himself into a "hole," Lewellyn recalls. "My sole purpose became to dig out from under this hole. I really couldn't get a handle on it."

Lewellyn, who was also managing the assets for his father's bank, began embezzling. "The first time I ever--I'll use this expression, 'dipped into the till'--to cover a mistake, just intuitively I felt absolutely horrible," he says. "It was like this little voice standing on my shoulders saying, 'Do not do this.' You hear a lot of people talking about intuition or your inner self. But I can remember like it happened a few minutes ago. It was a very burning sensation. When you have a voice, you should listen because the second and the third time it gets easier."

But Lewellyn didn't listen that first time or the many times that followed. When the SEC finally discovered what had happened, Lewellyn was accused of taking $16.7 million from his father's bank and combining it with credit from several brokerage houses into an elaborate--and not entirely rational--scheme to buy up 58 percent of the shares of a Pennsylvania-based company. His purchases at first drove up the price of the company, Safeguard Securities, but then the company collapsed and the NYSE suspended trading of the stock.

"When all this broke, the most difficult part was for myself and my father," Lewellyn recalls. "I had lost it, but I really couldn't say how I lost it or when I lost it."

To this day, Lewellyn cannot explain how he expected to make money off the deal. "You believe you're going to dig out of the hole," Lewellyn says. "I always saw it in essence as borrowing to dig out of the hole, and then when I dug out of the hole I would go back and return it. But then the hole kept getting deeper and deeper. And the risks kept getting larger and larger in order to get out of the hole."

Panicked, Lewellyn rushed to Las Vegas when he realized he had been discovered, desperately hoping to win back some of the money. During the three weeks before he turned himself in, Lewellyn's life became fodder for national news reporters. His mistress told reporters he had always treated her well and expensively. His wife and mother of his 4- and 7-year-olds said she didn't know where he had gone.

Now all that seems like another man's life, Lewellyn says. He and his wife divorced while he was incarcerated, but they have gotten along congenially, he says, cooperating to raise both kids, who have now graduated from high school. He has seen the mistress only once since he left prison.

F ive years in prison is something that sticks with you, Lewellyn says. "You're forced to learn to accept and tolerate some very unpleasant things."

For the small-town son of a prominent banker, even a federal minimum-security prison was a disorienting culture shock. Lewellyn recalls that in 1981 he had lunch in a private dining room with President Ronald Reagan. Some 12 months later, he was in transit in the federal penal system, "locked in a cage with a bunch of screaming Cuban refugees," he says. "I don't know that there is a wider variance."

Yet somehow, even in prison, Lewellyn bounced back. He served as president of the largest Toastmasters chapter in the world, persuading 25 percent of his fellow inmates to join. He also was assigned a task that taxed his business acumen: helping the federal corrections agency purchase a laundry facility from the military, then operate it. Lewellyn claims he saved the corrections agency $8 million. His lawyer, Barrett, says the prison authorities offered Lewellyn a job managing the laundry facility when he was released.

But when he got out of prison in 1987, serving 30 days in a Chicago halfway house, Lewellyn took another offer. His old business buddies from Iowa were willing to give him money to start a venture-capital firm that ultimately would become Performance Nutrition.

"We gave him a helping hand when he needed it," says former Iowa attorney general Scalise, who along with several others chipped in to help Lewellyn start up.

Performance Nutrition employs about 20 people. In 1995, the company sold $4.29 million worth of products and made a profit of $1 million. Its stock trades at roughly $3 a share. In the world of sports, the company has acquired a certain prestige because of its links to the training tables of collegiate and professional teams. Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston narrates a 30-minute infomercial for the product. (Johnston has received stock options as compensation for his appearance.) Other athletes and coaches, Lewellyn says, including representatives from the Kansas City Chiefs, the Boston Celtics, and the Milwaukee Bucks, have volunteered unpaid testimonials after trying the product.

But in the beginning, the company amounted to little more than Lewellyn and his older brother, an assistant high-school football coach, some space in the garage of Lewellyn's Chicago house, and a slim hope that the two siblings could cash in on their sports connections.

"We didn't have a product. We didn't have a sales force. We didn't have a business plan. And we didn't have that much capital," Lewellyn says. "And here we are saying we'd like to come and play in this $4.5 billion [food-supplement] business."

In 1988, Lewellyn ran into what he calls "an unforeseen event that expedited the development of Performance Nutrition." Ben Johnson, the Canadian Olympic athlete, had broken a world sprinting record only to have officials discover that the runner had been taking anabolic steroids. The outcry over Johnson's drug use led to a ban of and testing for steroid use in professional and college athletics and ultimately to Congress making them illegal.

The ban on steroids translated into a boom for the fledgling Performance Nutrition. Just as Lewellyn would, eight years later, liken the benefits of KidsPLEX to those of Ritalin, he began marketing his nutritional supplements as an alternative to anabolic steroids.

That same year, his past came back to haunt him. "Some people who were not the kind of people you like to do business with in Chicago tried to coerce me into providing them some expertise in laundering money--drug money," Lewellyn recalls. The connection was Tommy Guth, Lewellyn's former cellmate.

Lewellyn says he was scared and went to his defense lawyer for help. "I went to Barrett and I said, 'I've got a real problem and I don't know how to deal with it.'" Barrett told him to contact the FBI. Lewellyn did.

Ultimately, the FBI equipped Lewellyn with a wire, and he taped conversations with Henry J. Centracchio, who was later convicted on drug charges. So dangerous were the men he helped convict that Lewellyn considered an offer to disappear into the federal witness protection program, but finally decided against it. "You'll be a tortilla maker someplace," Lewellyn says of the federal program. "You are not going to be Gary Lewellyn."

But sometimes Lewellyn still wonders whether he should have taken the protection offer. "When you have people walking into your offices who have the power to have you killed," Lewellyn says, "it's not a real pleasant thought."

Nevertheless, Gary Lewellyn wound up doing business with another criminal--though he claims he didn't realize it at the time. It was only a few days after Lewellyn had moved in 1989 to Dallas--deciding the lower cost of living would be good for his company's economics, and that the distance from Chicago might be healthy for him--that he first met Charles Bazarian. A friend told Lewellyn that Bazarian might be able to help him with his capitalization problems. Lewellyn flew up to Oklahoma City to have dinner with Bazarian a few days later.

By all accounts, Bazarian, who is now serving out a 15-year sentence at the federal medical center in Fort Worth on unrelated stock-fraud charges, is an unlikely business partner. Convicted on federal charges four times, he is linked to four S&Ls that failed in the 1980s. Bazarian gained national notoriety in 1993 when a judge granted him a 24-hour furlough to attend his daughter's wedding. Bazarian, who weighed some 300 pounds at the time, took advantage of the judge's kindness to flee to Puerto Rico, only to be recaptured three months later as he left a movie theater.

Yet in court documents, associates describe Bazarian as a kindhearted man famous for his grandiose acts of generosity: He once bought a full set of dentures for a homeless man.

Even Lewellyn speaks warmly of him. "I haven't had any contact with Charley for years now," he says, sounding almost sentimental. Bazarian, Lewellyn says, was "a short, fat guy who could absolutely charm to no end. He was the most unique personality, not an educated person, but he had a Ph.D. in how to get people to do things. He had an uncanny ability to appeal to all our basic desires."

The things the short, fat guy could charm people into doing, however, also got them in serious trouble. "Charley was radioactive," Lewellyn says. "Anyone who got close was dusted."

In the complaint the SEC filed against Bazarian and Lewellyn in December 1994 in federal court in Oklahoma, the federal agency alleges that Lewellyn came to Bazarian in 1991 seeking help to finance his money-strapped company. In response, Bazarian promised to help merge Performance Nutrition with an existing public company he controlled, Omnet Corporation, and provide Lewellyn with $500,000 in cash.

But the SEC alleges that Lewellyn knew Bazarian had legal problems, knew he had previously been accused of falsely pumping the price of other stocks, and knew that the Oklahoma-based operator intended to get the $500,000 he had pledged to Lewellyn by boosting the price of Omnet before the merger on the basis of false information about Performance Nutrition.

Together, Bazarian and Lewellyn, the SEC alleges, concocted a scheme to boost the stock. The two invited professional team coaches who had endorsed Performance Nutrition products and stockbrokers to enjoy all-expenses-paid recreational weekends in early 1992. The events included trips to the horse races, as well as prostitutes that Bazarian provided, the SEC alleges.

The real objective at those retreats, according to the SEC, was to sell Omnet stock, which would, in turn, help boost the price. Lewellyn also knew, the SEC alleges, that a Bazarian-controlled company had issued misleading press releases--one that stated Omnet had a $500,000 contract with a company (in reality, the concern had no assets), and another that said Omnet would sell a Resolution Trust Corporation debt it had acquired to another company (which, it was later revealed, also had no assets). Bazarian's efforts, the SEC alleges, increased the Omnet stock price from $.38 to $8.

Lewellyn also tried on his own to conceal information from potential investors, the SEC alleges. A few days after the merger of Performance Nutrition and Omnet, Lewellyn resigned his position as president and director and hired a retiree from Oklahoma to fill his spot. He did so, the SEC contends in its court filings, to avoid having to disclose his previous criminal convictions.

Lewellyn offers a different take on the events of 1991 and 1992. "Charley was a guy who, at about the time we made a determination we needed to raise some capital, happened to be standing there saying, 'I have a public shell,'" Lewellyn says. Performance Nutrition needed money to get from the relatively limited specialty marketplace of sports training tables to the broader, more lucrative retail market.

Lewellyn says he did not know that Bazarian intended to inflate the Omnet stock price. The proof of his ignorance, Lewellyn argues, was that he personally made no money when the Omnet stock price rocketed. Instead, he says, he took the heat when the investors who had bought Omnet shares complained when the stock price began dropping soon after the merger with Performance Nutrition.

Lewellyn also denies that he intentionally tried to circumvent any requirements to disclose his criminal past. In a deposition, Lewellyn argued that his resignation reflected a business strategy rather than a ploy to deceive shareholders. "The theory was, bring in an administrative guy with years of experience who didn't possess any so-called baggage and allow him to develop the administrative aspect of the company here in Oklahoma City," Lewellyn testified.

Had he been president at the time of the merger in 1992, Lewellyn argues, he would not have been required to disclose his 1982 conviction, because the SEC rules only require reporting events of the five previous years. The agency's rules, however, do require directors and officers of a company to disclose any background information materially significant to an investor. A criminal conviction like Lewellyn's could easily be deemed material, says SEC spokesman Harold Degenhardt. But Lewellyn points out that the SEC may be less confident on that point, given that the agency is still not requiring any such disclosure from him.

Lewellyn says the SEC wants to settle this case because it is "embarrassed" by how weak the case is. The agency is no longer seeking to bar him from operating a publicly traded company, he says. It only wants him to agree to an injunction forbidding him from violating securities law again. The deal will not require him to admit or deny guilt, Lewellyn says.

Degenhardt confirms that the agency's lawyers and Lewellyn's counsel are now working on the language of a settlement. But Degenhardt declined to provide further details of the pending case.

That the SEC case has stretched on for two years boosts Lewellyn's confidence. "If this were a horrible deal," Lewellyn speculates, "they'd go to a judge, get a temporary restraining order, and they'd kaboom ya."

Lewellyn appears equally unconcerned about his battles with Sahley, the San Antonio nutritionist who helped developed KidsPLEX. Sahley, who runs the Pain & Stress Center, a private clinic in San Antonio, claims she discovered on her own accord in 1993 that the adult food supplements Performance Nutrition markets to athletes also help children who have nutritional deficiencies. When Sahley called Lewellyn to tell him she was using his product, they decided together to alter the formula slightly and develop a food supplement for children, calling it KidsPLEX.

For several years, Sahley sold the product from her clinic, sharing the profits with the company. In turn, she agreed to appear in Performance Nutrition's promotional materials endorsing the product.

But the friendly business link between Lewellyn and Sahley disintegrated in late 1995, she says, when she discovered that Lewellyn intended to start claiming KidsPLEX alone could resolve the symptoms linked to A.D.D. and could serve as a substitute for Ritalin.

"Everything was rocking until 60 Minutes and 20/20 ran stories," recalls Sahley. "He wanted me to call them and tell them I have the answer [to A.D.D.]." She says she refused to give KidsPLEX that kind of blanket endorsement. Her frustration grew to outrage, she says, when Lewellyn waited until 5:20 p.m. the day before his KidsPLEX ad ran in USA Today to fax her a galley. The ad included Performance Nutrition's telephone number, not Sahley's.

"I will not be party to your deceptive, misleading misrepresentations," Sahley wrote to Lewellyn in a March 18, 1996, letter, after the company ran the USA Today ad suggesting KidsPLEX as an "option" for Ritalin takers.

But Lewellyn says Sahley's real beef centers on money, not misrepresentation. Sahley has objected to his marketing, he says, because she wants to continue selling the product exclusively from her clinic, hoarding the profits. He wanted to begin wider distribution as the demand for KidsPLEX grew. (To that end, the company signed a contract in May to sell it retail in the nationwide GNC health-food chain.)

To replace Sahley's endorsement of KidsPLEX, Lewellyn has found other doctors--including Doris Rapp at the Environmental Allergy Center in Buffalo, New York, who helped write the USA Today ad, and Eugene DeBlasio, a pediatrician in upstate New York who is running a controlled study about the efficacy of KidsPLEX for the A.D.D. afflicted.

Lewellyn has also filed a claim in Dallas district court seeking a permanent injunction that would bar Sahley from "interfering in any way" with the company's rebroadcast of her image in its infomercials. It also would require that Sahley leave undisturbed any rebroadcasts of a favorable news segment about KidsPLEX produced by KDFW-TV Channel 4, the local Fox station. (That same Fox station entered earlier this year into a six-figure contract with Performance Nutrition to broadcast its infomercials during daytime hours. But KDFW health reporter John Hammerly says there was no connection between his report and the contract. "That's news to me," he says. "I didn't know anything about it.")

At the moment, Lewellyn's relaxed attitude about Sahley's potential harm to his claims for KidsPLEX seems justified. Lewellyn's in-house public-relations specialist, Wynne, has persuaded 28 different radio and television stations nationwide to run editorial coverage about KidsPLEX in the past few months, all of it exceedingly favorable. The company sales rose from $736,000 for the second quarter in 1995 to $1.59 million for the same period this year. That increase, Lewellyn says, is largely attributable to KidsPLEX.

"If he had not gotten into trouble," Lewellyn's former criminal-defense lawyer Barrett says about his client, "he would have been worth a lot of money.

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