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'Survivor' Hatch reneges on tax fraud deal

First-season victor accused of not declaring winnings
/ Source: Reuters

Richard Hatch, the first ”Survivor” of the CBS hit reality show, backed out of an agreement to plead guilty to tax fraud for failing to declare his $1 million winnings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

Hatch, a motivational speaker who surprised fellow contestants by wandering around naked on the island where the show was filmed, this week changed his mind on pleading guilty to cheating on his taxes, said Tom Connell, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Rhode Island.

The government will now present the case to a grand jury, Connell said.

In January, the government formally charged Hatch, a Rhode Island resident, with two counts of tax evasion after he signed a plea agreement. At his arraignment he waived his right to a grand jury investigation but did not enter a plea.

“The government will not pursue the information filed against Mr. Hatch in January and will instead present the case to a grand jury for consideration of all possible charges,” Connell said.

Hatch’s lawyer, John MacDonald, was not immediately available for comment.

A plea hearing with U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres was set for Friday and prosecutors earlier said they had expected Hatch to plead guilty in exchange for leniency in his sentence. But prosecutors filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the criminal information.

The now-dismissed charges accused Hatch of also failing to declare the $10,000 prize he earned for appearing on the series’ final episode in 2000 and more than $300,000 he earned the following year from radio appearances. Those charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Hatch surrendered his passport after the arraignment and was released after paying a $50,000 bond.

Connell did not say when the case may be presented to the grand jury.