Former 'Survivor' contestant, Michigan native Michael Skupin faces child porn, racketeering charges

Skupin accused of running Ponzi scheme

By Dave Bartkowiak Jr. - Digital Managing Editor

DETROIT - A local reality TV star is behind bars for what Attorney General Bill Scheutte is calling "horrific crimes."

Michael Skupin is charged with six counts of possession of child sexually abusive materials, five counts of larceny by conversion, and one count of racketeering -- conducting a criminal enterprise -- for his role in allegedly running and promoting a Ponzi scheme.

Skupin, a former contestant on the TV show "Survivor," has been arrested. He was arraigned Friday. The 54-year-old is being held at the Oakland County Jail. His bond was set at $350,000. 

"Not only did this man rob people of their hard earned savings with his financial scams but he victimized innocent children every time he looked at a piece of child pornography,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in a news release. "This man seems to have no concept or caring for right and wrong and will be prosecuted under the full extent of the law for these horrific crimes."

Case background from Attorney General's office:

An investigation began into Skupin after victims from his alleged Ponzi scheme contacted a local news reporter. It is alleged that Michael Skupin recruited investors and friends to take part in his “gifting scheme” called Pay It Forward. Victims allegedly made $10,000 cash investments in the scheme. Their money would then cycle through a chart in which participants were eventually paid out of other new investors’ money. 

The scheme was discovered when eventually there were no new investors signing and most people in the scheme lost all of their money.

Skupin’s laptop was searched in conjunction with the Ponzi scheme investigation. During the search, investigators discovered images of underage children in sexual situations. The images are alleged to belong to Skupin.

Skupin on "Survivor":

Skupin was a contestant on season two of "Survivor" in 2000 that took place in the Australian outback. He was remembered for an animal cruelty scandal in which he hunted down a wild pig and was the first contestant to be medically evacuated after he passed out and fell into a fire.

He appeared on the show again in 2012.

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