‘Survivor’ star Skupin jailed for flouting web use rule
Clarkston — Former TV reality show contestant Michael Skupin was sent to jail in handcuffs Friday morning after violating conditions of his bond in a racketeering and child pornography case.
Skupin, 54, of White Lake Township appeared before Clarkston 52-2 District Judge Kelley Kostin for a probable cause hearing on 12 offenses, initially brought by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. It all went smoothly until Kostin and assistant state attorney general Allison Furtaw brought up concerns about Skupin’s use of the Internet — specifically posts on Facebook.
“I was very clear about Internet usage,” Kostin said to Skupin’s attorney Steven Lynch. “I ordered that prior to any use he must submit logs to pretrial services to say what he was searching and why. No mention of posting on Facebook.”
Skupin was given restricted access for business purposes only and that had to be approved, she noted. Restricted access is not uncommon in cases involving Internet crimes.
“He completely denied the court order ... it’s embarrassing and I have no idea what else he is doing on the Internet,” Kostin said. “I just know about what is public.”
Skupin is charged with six counts of child pornography possession, five counts of larceny and one count of racketeering for allegedly running a scheme called “Pay It Forward” where he allegedly used investors’ money to pay off earlier investors.
The child pornography was discovered on Skupin’s computer during the investigation of the Ponzi-like investment scheme.
Skupin appeared on two seasons of the popular “Survivor” TV shows — including one in which he fell into a campfire and had to be airlifted to a hospital for treatment of his burns.
At the time of charges in February, State Attorney General Bill Schuette said of Skupin: “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.”
The child pornography charge is a felony which carries up to four years in prison. Larceny is a felony with a five-year prison penalty and the racketeering-conducting a criminal enterprise offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Victims allegedly made $10,000 cash investments in the scheme.
Skupin was freed on $350,000/10 percent bond — meaning he only had to post $35,000 bond — with conditions including restriction of Internet use and wearing an electronic tether .
Kostin modified that bond to $350,000 cash surety with no Internet use and ordered his laptops and Smart phone to be “locked up” and turned over to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
Skupin’s next examination date is scheduled for May 23.
“He (Skupin) is shell shocked,” Lynch said. “He made some personal posts on Facebook but assumed it was OK.
“We are disappointed on the judge changing the bond. The postings have nothing to do with any of the offenses. We are looking forward to contesting all changes against him.”