“Survivor” alumnus Michael Skupin is speaking out a week after his arrest for possession of child pornography and racketeering. He told People that he has been “wrongfully accused” and is adamant about fighting the charges against him.
According to People, Skupin, 54, is currently facing 11 criminal charges regarding his arrest, but is “optimistic” the justice system will find in his favor. Detroit Newstime reports that six of the counts against Skupin are for possession of material that depicts child sexual abuse, apparently found on the Michigan native’s computer during an investigation by police “over an alleged Ponzi scheme.”
According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the investigation began after complaints surfaced from investors who had placed their money in a business run by Skupin, Detroit Newstime reports.
Schuette further announced that investor money “would… cycle through a chart in which participants were eventually paid out of other new investors’ money.” Schuette alleges that as a result, the investment scheme was revealed, and no one new wanted to invest so those who had already invested their money lost it, according to Detroit Newstime.
If convicted of the charges, Skupin, who now resides in Oakland, California, could face up to 29 years behind bars, the news media outlet writes.
Prior to his arrest, Skupin was well known for being the first person ever to be medically evacuated during the filming of “Survivor.” This took place during his initial appearance on the season that placed castaways in the Australian outback. According to All Media NY, Skupin was not popular with his fellow cast members after he “brutally killed a pig.” His removal from the game occurred after he appeared to fall asleep while watching over a fire pit, and sustained serious burns to his hands.
Skupin returned to “Survivor” in season 25, which took place in the Philippines. All Media NY reports he formed an alliance with “Facts of Life” actress Lisa Welchel, and made it to the end, but ultimately lost to Denise Stapley.
On Friday, Skupin released an exclusive statement to People, stating this will be the only time he plans to speak out while his legal case is pending. The reality star is trusting in his faith to get through this dark time, which is evident in his statement in its entirety below:
“I’m not even sure what to say. I’m more shocked by this than anyone. Sadly, our media doesn’t subscribe to ‘innocent until proven.’ I truly am prayerfully optimistic in our justice system and will fight this with all that I am. Thank you to those who continue to believe in me. I am the guy that you think that I am. There are scores of people that have been wrongfully accused at some point in their life – including our Savior. I’m leaning on Him in faith to walk beside me through this darkness and staying strong for all of those people. Thank you for all of your messages of love and support. You have no idea what they have meant to me and my family. My whole life has been kids: my kids, my family and anyone who ever needed help in any way. I’ve traveled the globe working with millions of kids both one-on-one, at schools, camps and assemblies. I’ve coached over 60 seasons of youth sports. I have never, ever hurt a child in any way – not as alleged and not ever. I’m trusting in justice, trusting in our God and continuing to love everyone as God has instructed us. I have faith that despite this difficult time, there are brighter days ahead. ‘Whatsoever you do, to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.'”
Skupin, the father of seven children, is due in court later this month, according to People.
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