Phil Busch has always been one angry dude. In 2006, the musclebound motivational speaker and born-again Christian fueled worldwide headlines when he sued über-evangelist Pat Robertson for using the bodybuilder's well-greased, vein-popping physique to sell a mass-marketed protein shake without permission — and damn was Busch pissed about it.
"Look in my eyes," he told the Dallas Observer. "This ain't no goddamn game. He wants to come after me? Bring it fuckin' on."
So how did Busch end up in a Miami courtroom last month, 50 pounds overweight, shackled, wearing a beige prison suit, and charged with scamming the IRS, fleeing arrest, and calling in bomb threats to two airports?
Around 2003, Busch — a 400-pound beast with a tiny mustache and a prodigious chin waddle — discovered Robertson's "Age-Defying Shake," which infomercials claim helped the septuagenarian televangelist leg-press 2,000 pounds.
By chugging the Jesus-approved glop and pumping iron, Busch dropped to 212 finely chiseled pounds. He entered bodybuilding contests and placed eighth at Mr. Natural Olympia — earning him a prime slot on Robertson's 700 Club program to shill for the shake.
But Robertson screwed him, Busch began telling anyone who would listen. In August 2005, he filed a suit in Dallas's federal district court alleging Robertson was using Busch's ripped bod to sell drinks at GNC. Everyone from the Washington Post to the Associated Press picked up on his profanity-laden rants.
When Busch's suit was summarily dismissed in 2007, his tenuous career as a pro-muscle man fell apart. Busch and his wife, Tamara Whitman, both unemployed, began filing tens of thousands of dollars in bogus tax claims that eventually totaled $18.6 million in returns, IRS investigators say.
The IRS moved in to arrest the couple in early February. Whitman surrendered, but Busch went on the lam.
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On February 16, Busch used his wife's cell phone to call Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Miami International Airport. Using the name of the FBI agent who was tracking him, Busch told operators: "There are bombs in every terminal."
What he didn't know was that the FBI had traced the cell phone's signal. The next day, they took him into custody.
After his hearing last week, a pudgy Busch — apparently off Robertson's miracle protein formula — was extradited to Texas, where he faces a count of making threats and false information, on top of his tax fraud charges.
"I hope the authorities can see that this man is deranged," says Doris Wodziak, longtime partner of Busch's father. "I don't know how the boy got this far without being committed."