TV’s Skupin to stand trial on porn, scheme charges

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Clarkston — Six images of underage girls were found on computers police confiscated from a former Oakland County reality TV star’s home prompting a Clarkston District Court judge Friday to order Michael Skupin to stand trial on possession of child pornography and other charges.

Former reality TV star Michael Skupin, left, is bound over to circuit court on charges of racketeering, larceny and possession of child pornography material after his preliminary exam Friday.

Skupin, 54, of White Lake Township immediately left the court after Judge Kelley Kostin said there was enough evidence for him to stand trial on racketeering, larceny and child pornography charges after his computer was seized during a state investigation.

Skupin, best known for appearing on two seasons of “Survivor,” remains free on $350,000 cash surety bond.

His attorney, Steven Lynch, had no comment after the decision, but said in court police cannot prove Skupin owned or even used the computers that contained child pornography.

Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. David Boike testified Friday about a forensic exam he performed on two laptops found by police in two of Skupin’s Oakland County homes. He said he found six images of child pornography as well as internet searches for Skupin’s Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

One search was for “can a seven-year-old have sex?”, Boike said.

“This is unusual. When I saw it, I bookmarked it” for the investigation, he said.

Lynch asked Boike if he knew who was using the computer when the images were downloaded or the searches made. Boike said he did not.

Assistant Attorney General Alison Furtaw said one of the computers was found in Skupin’s home office, on his desk and surrounded by papers with his name on them. The other was found at Skupin’s home where his wife pointed it out to police.

Six images were admitted as evidence in court Friday. All of them were of underage females performing in or engaging in sex acts.

Boike said of one image: “It appears she is crying.”

Furtaw called to the stand Diane Salter, an investigator with the State Attorney General’s Office, who said Skupin never registered his company that offered a “Pay It Forward” financial program as an LLC nor did he register himself as an agent for the company with state licensing.

The money he received from alleged victims in the scheme all went to bank accounts in Skupin’s own name, not the alleged company, Salter said.

Last month, six witnesses told Kostin how Skupin persuaded them to individually invest cash ranging from $300 to nearly $14,000 in his program which promised returns of up to eight times their investment. They said Skupin was likeable, had charts and all the answers.

They initially learned of Skupin’s investment program through close friends or relatives and set up meetings in which they handed over cash, obtained no receipts and hoped for great returns.

Investigators said Skupin’s business model was nothing more than a classic pyramid scheme aided by his celebrity status where early investors may receive payoffs and even unwittingly help recruit later investors and new money.

The six said Skupin showed them charts and pocketed their cash, but months later, returned only promises and excuses — eventually refusing to return their calls or emails.

Salter has said she opened an investigation in December 2013 after being provided with information, including one investor, from Fox WJBK-TV’s (Channel 2) Rob Wolchek.

In the previous court hearing, Lynch said his client only appealed to people seeking “a quick buck that didn’t come.”

The child pornography charge carries up to four years in prison. The larceny charge 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.

JChambers@detroitnews.com