Richard Hatch found guilty of not paying taxes

BY admin

January 26 2006 12:00 AM ET

Richard Hatch,
who won $1 million in the first season of
television's 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 cohost 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 that
included tips to a limousine driver, dry cleaning, and
tens of thousands of dollars on improvements to a house he
owned.

Near the end of
the trial, an explanation for Hatch's failure to pay
taxes was raised by his lawyer—but never mentioned in
the jury's presence. Hatch's lawyer, Michael Minns,
said Hatch caught fellow Survivor contestants
cheating and struck a deal with the show's producers
to pay his taxes if he won. But Hatch was never asked
about the allegation when he testified. Instead, Minns told
jurors that Hatch, who lives in Newport, R.I., 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, adding that the donations he took from his
charity were far less than the money he had already poured
into it.

More than five
years after winning, the out 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." But he made the biggest
impression—and won the show—by scheming
his way to the top. He reveled as squabbles among his
fellow contestants thinned their ranks, connived with
teammates to stick together, and then pitted his
allies against each other.

Early on, he used
his success on the show to get more work, including a
"Got Milk?" ad and an appearance on Survivor
All-Stars
—where he was voted off by fellow
contestants. He also appeared on TV game shows, including
The Weakest Link. That appearance, made on behalf
of Horizon Bound, netted a $10,000 donation to his charity
camp—money prosecutors said was among the funds
misused.

But Hatch's
shrewdness did not serve him well in the legal world. A year
ago prosecutors offered him a deal: plead guilty to two
counts of tax evasion, and they would recommend less
than the maximum 10-year sentence. After initially
agreeing, Hatch walked away, retaining Minns as his new
lawyer and appearing on NBC's Today show to
claim that CBS was supposed to pay the taxes. Prosecutors
responded with a grand jury, which indicted Hatch on
10 counts carrying a maximum of 73 years in prison and
millions of dollars in fines.

During the trial,
prosecutors called witnesses, including Mark Burnett,
executive producer of Survivor. Burnett
testified that Hatch's Survivor contract stated
he would have to pay taxes on his prize. Minns never asked
him about the cheating allegation, and Burnett and CBS
declined to comment about it. (Ray Lewis, AP)

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