‘Survivor’ contestant Skupin pleads no contest

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Ex-“Survivor” TV contestant Michael Skupin pleaded no contest Monday to a larceny offense, part of what investigators said was used to bilk investors out of thousands of dollars in a Ponzi-like scheme.

Skupin, 54, of White Lake Township was initially charged with six counts of larceny and racketeering in his “Pay It Forward” investment plan after raids last year of his addresses by agents of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. But in a no contest plea to one offense on the day his trial was to start, the other related charges were dismissed Monday.

All are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. A conviction on the racketeering charge could have carried up to 20 years in prison.

“The plea agreement seemed the best way to resolve this,” Skupin’s attorney, Steven Lynch, said outside court. “He also must make restitution and if he can make up to one-third at sentencing, the judge will consider probation.”

Skupin, who remains free on bond, will return before Oakland Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts on Dec. 27 for sentencing. That is the same date he is to be sentenced with four counts of possession of child pornography, which he was found guilty of last Friday after a jury trial.

In examination of two laptop computers seized in the raids, investigators found images of minors engaging in sexual acts.

Lynch said the probation consideration does not extend to the child pornography convictions, which can carry up to four years in prison.

Skupin became known to fans of the “Survivor” reality TV series when he appeared in two different seasons — one in which he was seriously burned when he fell into a campfire and had to be airlifted off the show. He later wrote a book titled “Fireproof” about the experience.

In recent years, Skupin has been employed as a software salesman, ran a ministry and was a motivational speaker for people struggling with substance abuse. He also operated his questionable financial investment program which investigators said never delivered promised results to investors.

Lynch said “around $30,000” was claimed by authorities to have been lost by investors.


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