[Marxism] Survivor goes down

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 22 09:31:04 MST 2006


(This article fails to address the consistency between screwing one's 
fellow reality TV show competitors and tax fraud. They are not at odds with 
each other but are rather different aspects of becoming Capitalist Man.)

NY Times, January 22, 2006
A New Reality for First 'Survivor' Winner: Tax Evasion Trial
By PAM BELLUCK

PROVIDENCE, R.I., Jan. 20 - Reality television met its match when it found 
Richard Hatch.

He was the "naked fat guy" who speared fish and killed rats as a tropical 
island castaway in the first season of "Survivor." He was the man with a 
plan from the get-go to get rid of the other 15 castaways, and with 
Machiavellian mojo, he pulled it off and won a million dollars.

Now, six years later, Mr. Hatch is starring in a different kind of survival 
contest. He is on trial for failing to pay taxes on his million-dollar 
windfall, charged in a 10-count indictment with tax evasion, filing false 
income tax returns, wire fraud, bank fraud and mail fraud. He faces up to 
30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Federal prosecutors have put on a parade of accountants, tax men and others 
who say "Survivor's" first success story cheated on his taxes by filing a 
return that showed him entitled to a refund, instead of reflecting the 
hundreds of thousands of dollars he owed the government. He is also accused 
of failing to pay taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars of other 
income, and of using money to renovate his houses when it was intended for 
a charity he formed.

On Friday, Mr. Hatch, who had parlayed his newfound fame into appearances 
on "Hollywood Squares," "Entertainment Tonight," a "Got Milk?" 
advertisement and other gigs, took the stand himself.

He is no longer fat, thanks to post-"Survivor" surgery to remove the flaps 
of stretched-out skin that were seen by 51 million viewers. And he was no 
longer naked, to the relief of probably everyone, although his courtroom 
wardrobe has been an unusually casual mix of sweaters and shirts unbuttoned 
at the collar.

Standing in the witness box for nearly five hours, frequently gesturing and 
looking at the jury, Mr. Hatch sought to portray his tax situation as 
complicated and confusing, especially for someone grappling with instant 
fame and stresses involving his adopted son.

"Never from the beginning have I ever had any intention but to get this 
resolved and paid as due," said Mr. Hatch, 44, a corporate trainer from 
Middletown, R.I., who taught seminars in skills like team-building and 
conflict management.

The charges have elicited bemused and befuddled reactions from many. 
Charlie Hall, a Rhode Island comedian and cartoonist, drew Mr. Hatch in his 
birthday suit standing before a judge who advised his lawyer to "inform 
your client Mr. Hatch that the immunity necklace he won on 'Survivor' will 
not keep him out of prison for tax evasion."

Some fellow "survivors" are dumbstruck.

"I really have no idea what he could possibly be thinking in terms of how 
he could get away with this," said Dirk Been, another member of the 
original cast who said he was "known on the show as the Christian guy and 
the virgin and the Bible thumper" and differed with Mr. Hatch about 
religion. "Maybe the things that won him the game are the things that are 
hurting him now as far as his way of dealing with things and rules and laws."

Sonja Christopher, 68, a ukulele and banjo player who was the first to be 
voted off the island, said she had "always been a supporter of Rich" and 
admired him as "a very intelligent person" she considered confident but not 
arrogant. She has seen him several times since the show and exchanged 
e-mail messages.

In one message, about six months ago, she said, "he casually dropped, 'Oh 
by the way, I may be spending some jail time,' that they had been after him 
for about two years on his taxes."

Ms. Christopher said she wrote back, " 'What in the blankety-blank-blank 
were you thinking?' and then I tried to lighten it up with 'I'll send you a 
cake with a file in it.' "

She said Mr. Hatch never replied.

Mr. Hatch testified that "Survivor's" producers at CBS had told him they 
would pay his taxes, even though he signed a contract saying he would pay 
taxes on any winnings. Mr. Hatch's lawyer, Michael Minns, a Texan who has 
built a career battling the Internal Revenue Service, wanted Mr. Hatch to 
be able to testify that the producers promised to pay the taxes because Mr. 
Hatch caught some people working for CBS trying to undermine his chances of 
winning by sneaking food to other contestants. But Judge Ernest C. Torres 
would not allow the jury to hear that testimony.

Mr. Hatch said he tried to find out if the network had paid any of his 
taxes, but his telephone and e-mail messages were not returned. So, 
although two different accountants prepared returns for him showing he owed 
either $374,000 or $234,800, Mr. Hatch asked one of the accountants to 
prepare a return that did not reflect the $1 million, one that showed him 
entitled to a $4,483 refund.

And although that accountant warned him not to file it and even had him 
sign a letter advising him against it, Mr. Hatch acknowledged in testimony 
that that was the return he filed.

"All I wanted to do was find out whether or not the taxes due on the 
million dollars or some portion of them had been paid," Mr. Hatch said. "I 
just didn't want to pay them if they had already been paid."

Last week, Mark Burnett, the executive producer of "Survivor," testified 
that Mr. Hatch's contract made him responsible for the taxes. He was not 
asked whether he or others had promised to pay them for Mr. Hatch.

The prosecutor, Lee Vilkers, said the Hatch situation was simple, noting 
that the check and 1099 tax form from "Survivor" showed that the show had 
paid none of his taxes, and that in his book, "101 Survival Secrets: How to 
Make $1,000,000, Lose 100 Pounds, and Just Plain Live Happily," Mr. Hatch 
wrote he expected to owe taxes on his winnings.

"Are you saying you are still confused about whether or not you had to pay 
taxes on that money?" Mr. Vilkers asked, noting that Mr. Hatch spent nearly 
$700,000 on landscaping and renovation instead of paying the I.R.S.

Mr. Hatch also said he was overwhelmed by his sudden celebrity and by 
charges accusing him of abusing his then-9-year-old adopted son, Chris, by 
forcing him to exercise. Chris was temporarily placed in foster care, where 
Mr. Hatch said he had spent most of his life until Mr. Hatch adopted him at 
age 7.

"It was extremely difficult," said Mr. Hatch, who said Chris had serious 
behavior problems. The charges against Mr. Hatch were dismissed and Chris 
was returned to him.

In addition to not reporting $326,540 he earned being a co-host of a Boston 
radio program or $19,000 in rental income, Mr. Hatch is accused of spending 
on himself $36,500 in donations he raised for a charity he re-established 
to provide wilderness training to troubled youths. Mr. Hatch said the 
charity, Horizon Bound, was legitimate, a longtime goal for him because the 
program had helped him as a teenager.

But Mr. Hatch may have inadvertently admitted a propensity to bend the 
rules when he said that he signed the name of a former lover, Ralph Magee, 
and listed him as a Horizon Bound officer without his knowledge. He said 
that for years he had signed Mr. Magee's name on forms "very, very often," 
and had him pretend to be an employee so that clients would think Mr. 
Hatch's company was "more than a one-man show." 





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