Last week, exercise equipment inventor Douglas Brendle was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of tax and healthcare fraud.
A resident of Cheyenne, Wyo., Brendle is the inventor of the Fitwall, a stainless steel lattice structure that stands about seven feet tall and is 30 inches wide. It has footsteps and hand-holds, as well as the ability to add various attachments like resistance bands or a rock-climbing face. The idea is that you have your entire gym (or at least workout) in the wall standing in front of you. A mini-jungle gym for one.
From 2008 to 2012, Brendle owned and operated Brendle Climbing Systems, which sold his exercise equipment. In January 2013, Brendle sold the rights to the equipment to investors for $1.5 million to be paid out over the next two years. Unfortunately, Brendle forgot to pay income taxes to the tune of approximately $404,501.
He not only failed to pay income taxes from 2013 to 2014, but he also fraudulently received healthcare benefits from Wyoming Medicaid. From 2013 to 2014, Medicaid paid Brendle approximately $17,173 in benefits.
He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for two counts of willfully failing to file his income tax returns and one count of making a fraudulent healthcare benefit application. In addition to his prison term, he's also on the hook for the $404,501 in restitution to the IRS, and $17,173.70 to Medicaid. He was facing up to three years in prison.
For a few years, the Fitwall was deemed the "future of exercise," and the company was even named one of the world's top 10 most innovative companies in fitness. As Brendle prepares to begin his sentence, Fitwall gyms are still opening up across the United States.