"It was supposed to be the next TASER International (NASDAQ:TASR)! Oh, gawd, puhleeze! Let it be the next TASER, at least the whole gazillion-percent runup part, not the part after insiders dumped millions of bucks worth and the wheels fell off."

That quote was, in a nutshell, the hypester nonsense that surrounded Law Enforcement Associates (AMEX:AID) not all that long ago, when the company zoomed from pennyland into dollar-land on the promise of a new stun gun.

Heck, I seem to remember this thing being flogged by the business press as a portfolio recommendation of one amazing, market-beating Playboy Bunny, at least a few months back when beating the market took all the expertise of a dart-throwing chimp.

But the bunnies are probably not doing so well with LEA these days. Last Friday, a few minutes after market close, management let slip a quiet press release explaining that the firm's CFO, Mike Wagner, would be leaving for "personal reasons."

Uh-huh. My guess is that those personal reasons involve not wanting to be steering the ship while the water is lapping at your ankles. No surprise, the briny deep is coming further up, with the share price dropping 9%, taking it to below a buck on Monday, where I always figured this thing would head.

I'm surprised it took so long. After all, this was one of those penny stocks that had everything: the homeland security space, big claims for the hot new stun product, the paid advertisements by stock shilling sites, angry public denials. It was everything you could ask for in a junk AMEX stock -- except that I couldn't get any shares to short.

Reality came soaking in back in March, when we found out there were some financial restatements to make. In April, I took a look at the numbers and was sickly amused, not only by the deteriorating financials, but by the nature of the restatements: gross sales reported as net sales, and other problems of a highly unsavory nature. Of course, while all this was going down, the promise of the TASER-killing stun gun (which looks more like a door prize at the County Fair, really -- check this PDF) kept being pushed further and further back.

But that didn't stop insiders from cashing out big time -- including former North Carolina state Sen. John Carrington. This is a guy, you might recall, who resigned his board position and was slapped around by the Feds for minor stuff like, you know, breaking arms export laws.

How badly have investors been burned by this once-hot "growth story?" The company has lost an incredible 80% or more of its value since January of 2005, when it was at the peak of the stun-gun hype cycle.

The lesson here is clear: Don't rush headlong into the next big anything, especially if the last big role model is still running hot. (And keep an even tighter grip on your wallet if the outfit trades on the AMEX -- home to an inordinate number of the funky companies I follow.)

People who promise you they've got the next Hansen Natural (NYSE:HANS), the next NutriSystem (NASDAQ:NTRI), or the next Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) are usually looking for one thing only -- the next batch of suckers.

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Seth Jayson is fascinated by what people will spend their savings on. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Intuitive Surgical and TASER are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Fool rules are here.