'Survivor' Hatch Guilty Of Tax Evasion

Richard Hatch holds prize of one million dollars after winning CBS "Survivor" tv show, Los Angeles, California CBS/AP

The tribe can't grant him immunity on this one.

Richard Hatch, who won $1 million in the first season of "Survivor," was found guilty Wednesday of failing to pay taxes on his winnings.

Hatch was handcuffed and taken into custody after U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres said he was a potential flight risk.

He also was convicted of evading taxes on $327,000 he earned as co-host of a Boston radio show and $28,000 in rent on property he owned. He was acquitted of seven bank, mail and wire fraud charges.

Hatch, 44, faces up to 13 years in prison and a fine of $600,000. Sentencing was scheduled for April 28.

Jurors deliberated for less than a day after more than a week of testimony.

Besides the tax charges, prosecutors accused Hatch of using money donated to his charitable foundation, Horizon Bound, an outdoors program he planned to open for troubled youth. He allegedly spent the money on expenses including tips to a limousine driver, dry cleaning and tens of thousands of dollars on improvements to a house he owned.

And while Hatch proved five years ago that he can survive in even the roughest of conditions, that might have worked against him after the trial, CBS' Alison Harmelin reports. The federal judge ruled Hatch to be a flight risk, and ordered him cuffed and taken into custody.

One possible explanation for Hatch's failure to pay taxes was raised by his lawyer toward the end of the trial but was never mentioned in the jury's presence.

Hatch's lawyer, Michael Minns, said Hatch caught fellow contestants cheating and struck a deal with producers for the show to pay his taxes if he won.

CBS did not comment on the charges Friday; nor did a spokesman for "Survivor" executive producer Mark Burnett — who testified earlier at Hatch's trial.

"Survivor" has been a mainstay of CBS' lineup ever since it became a sensation in the summer of 2000 and, after "American Idol," is consistently television's most popular reality game. The 12th installment of the show, set in Panama, begins on CBS Feb. 2.

But, ultimately, Hatch was never asked about the allegation when he testified.

Instead, Minns told jurors Hatch was the "world's worst bookkeeper" and said his client never meant to do anything wrong. Hatch testified that he thought producers were supposed to pay his "Survivor" taxes, and said the donations he took from his charity were far less than the money he had already poured into it.

A poll conducted by The Associated Press and TV Guide last September found that 82 percent of Americans believe that reality shows are either "totally made up" or "mostly distorted."

The heart of "Survivor" is putting real people in stressful situations and watching how they react to one another, Thompson said.

More than five years after winning, Hatch remains reality TV's most famous villain, the man viewers loved to hate. He first captured their attention for shedding his clothes on "Survivor," prompting David Letterman to call him "the fat naked guy."

  • Christine Lagorio

Comments