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Original ‘Survivor’ Richard Hatch Indicted By Grand Juryby David Bloomberg -- 09/09/2005
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Original Survivor winner Richard Hatch may be facing a challenge that he can’t win. While he barely won over a jury of his peers in the final episode of the show that launched the reality TV revolution, he has now been indicted by quite a different type of jury – a grand jury – on ten charges relating to tax evasion, wire fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud, etc.
As reported in January, Hatch was charged with two counts of filing false income tax returns, dating back to 2000 and 2001. He originally signaled his intent to plead guilty, but then decided to fight the charges and claim that he thought CBS should have paid the taxes.
Even if that excuse were true – and CBS says Hatch was fully aware of his own tax obligations – it fails to explain many of the other charges. Even in the original case, Hatch was accused of failing to report approximately $320,000 paid to him by radio station WQSX in Botson for his time as a cohost of “The Wilde Show.” Perhaps he thought the radio station was obliged to pay his taxes too?
In deciding to fight the charges, they have grown in magnitude and scope. Rather than just the two counts he faced previously, prosecutors have ten now. And rather than simply aiming at his tax returns, there are now accusations that he misused funds intended for a charity he founded, Horizon Bound.
While Hatch has not yet commented on the allegations – he was on his way to Houston to help hurricane victims in the Astrodome – any hope he had of winning immunity looks bleak.
The charges filed do not simply allege that Hatch made a mistake – they claim that he knowingly filed false returns. Indeed, the indictment says Hatch had accountants prepare proper tax returns including the Survivor prize, but balked when he saw a tax bill going into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. So instead, he had an accountant put together a return that omitted that and got himself a $4500 refund instead!
It’s not clear if this emboldened him further, but he also allegedly omitted income from the aforementioned radio show and also some $28,000 in rent from a Rhode Island property.
The real kicker, though, is the accusation that Hatch misused $36,500 in money designated for his Horizon Bound nonprofit camp. One example given is that he took the $10,000 donation he received for being on The Weakest Link and used it for a home project instead of the camp. If proven to be true, this would act as a final nail in the coffin of public opinion, as it would verify what many people already think of him and move him from the realm of just being a reality TV villain to a true “villain.” After all, manipulating people on a game show is one thing – manipulating money meant to help kids is quite another.
Right now, though, all we have are accusations, and not even a response yet from Hatch. And, frankly, if he is found guilty, public opinion would be the least of his worries. The maximum sentence for these ten counts is 75 years in prison and millions in fines. Certainly he is unlikely to face such a penalty, even if found guilty, but he would not be likely to get off with a slap on the wrist, either. If he is found guilty, the best he could hope for is a short time in prison and then trying to convince producer Mark Burnett to perhaps give him a shot with The Apprentice: Richard Hatch.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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