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'Survivor: Pulau Tiga' winner Richard Hatch rejects tax-evasion plea bargain


By Wade Paulsen, 03/04/2005 

Can Richard Hatch outwit, outplay and outlast the combined forces of the United States Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, as he did to the other contestants on the first Survivor? We may be about to find out.

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Yesterday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston announced that Hatch, the winner of Survivor: Pulau Tiga, has withdrawn his agreement to plead guilty to charges of federal income tax evasion as part of a plea bargain. As a result, according to a spokesman for the office as quoted by Reuters, the U.S. government will withdraw the "information" filing previously made with the court and will instead present the case to a grand jury, which is necessary to formally indict and try Hatch for the two counts of tax evasion included in the information.

After the announcement, a U.S. district court hearing scheduled for today, at which Hatch had been expected to be charged with and to plead guilty to the crimes, was cancelled. The plea bargain (a copy of which can be found on The Smoking Gun) required that Hatch actually plead guilty to the crimes in return for the government's recommendation of a lesser sentence for accepting responsibility. In yesterday's statement, the spokesman specifically noted that Hatch, through his attorney, had advised the U.S. Attorney's Office that he would not plead guilty.

According to the plea bargain and the information, Hatch failed to pay federal income taxes on the entire $1 million that he received for winning Survivor: Pulau Tiga in 2000, as well as the $10,000 that CBS paid him to appear on the reunion show and the $321,139 that he received in 2001 for his work as a morning drive co-host on "The Wilde Show," a syndicated radio program produced by Entercom Broadcasting.

If Hatch actually proceeds to trial and loses, he could be spending a lot longer in a confined environment than his 39 days on Pulau Tiga. Each criminal charge carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, and the trial court could order the sentences to be served consecutively. In addition, the government is likely to proceed with civil charges against Hatch to recover the unpaid taxes plus penalties and interest from 2000 and 2001.

In addition, some reports have indicated that Hatch also did not pay any state income taxes (which, in Rhode Island, are approximately 25% of the amount of federal income taxes) on his earnings, which may produce future civil and criminal charges against Hatch before all is said and done.

The Associated Press reported that a spokesman for Richard Hatch's attorney declined to comment on the reasons that Hatch withdrew from the plea bargain. We hope, at least, that Richard paid his income taxes on his winnings from last year's Survivor: All Stars, during which Richard shunned clothes entirely ... and we also hope that Richard realizes that perpetual nakedness is not the best clothing strategy once in prison.

(Photo credit CBS)


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