LOS ANGELES (March 24) -- A shoplifting case that began with a televised confession on the "Dr. Phil" show led a San Diego judge Monday to condemn TV personality Phil McGraw as "a terrible, terrible man" and "a charlatan."
District Court Judge Irma Gonzalez unloaded on Dr. Phil as she sentenced a couple to prison for running a $100,000 shoplifting ring in which they used their three young children as decoys, and sold the stolen merchandise through Web sites. The couple discussed their exploits on a "Dr. Phil" episode, "Shoplifting Confessions," in November 2008. Five months later, their home was raided by federal officials, who found more than 500 boxes of toys and other items.
Gonzalez sentenced Matthew Eaton, 34, to 27 months in prison, a year more than prosecutors had sought, and his wife, Laura Eaton, 27, to one year and a day.
The Eatons went on the TV show to get help ending their compulsion to shoplift, but show officials pressed them to exaggerate their exploits, their lawyer told the court, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The couple brought along a home video of one of their trips, using the children to distract store clerks, and seemed more interested in bragging than in getting help giving up their livelihood, according to earlier reports.
The Eatons continued to shoplift after the show aired, the judge noted. She described Matthew Eaton as "despicable" for his role running the racket, but she reserved her harshest word for McGraw.
"What a charlatan this man is," the judge was quoted as saying during the sentencing. "What a terrible, terrible man."
A spokeswoman for McGraw declined comment.