'Survivor' Champ Hatch Pleads Not Guilty to Tax Fraud

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Richard Hatch (search), who won $1 million on the first season of the reality show "Survivor," pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he failed to pay taxes on his winnings from the CBS show.

The Rhode Island (search) resident has been charged with tax evasion, filing a false tax return, wire fraud, bank fraud and mail fraud, and was released on $50,000 bond. A judge restricted his travel to Rhode Island and Houston, where his lawyer's office is located, and ordered him to turn over his passport.

Before the hearing, Hatch, 44, called the accusations absurd. He is also accused of using donations made to his charity for personal expenses and failing to pay taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars of other income.

"I've never taken a penny from a charity, and they know it. I've always paid my taxes, and they know it," he said.

A grand jury indictment filed earlier this month said Hatch filed false 2000 and 2001 tax returns, omitting his income from the reality show, $327,000 he was paid to co-host "The Wilde Show" (search) on WQSX-FM in Boston and $28,000 in rent on a property he owns in Newport.

Hatch had two accountants prepare tax returns for 2000 that included his "Survivor" winnings, but he did not file them when he learned he would owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, the indictment said. In 2002, he had one of the accountants prepare a second return that did not include his winnings from the television show. He filed that one, which called for a $4,500 refund, the indictment said.

The grand jury also accused Hatch of misusing $36,500 from Horizon Bound, a nonprofit camp he set up. For example, he allegedly kept for himself a $10,000 donation made in return for his appearance on the NBC game show "Weakest Link." He spent the money from the game show on a construction project at his house, the indictment said.

Hatch faces a maximum of 75 years in prison if found guilty on all charges. He also could face millions of dollars in fines.

On "Survivor," Hatch stood out for being a cunning and ruthless competitor who spent much of his time in the nude. He won the show's first season in August 2000. Since then, he has appeared on other TV shows, most recently "Battle of the Network Reality Stars" on the cable TV channel Bravo.

Hatch has weathered a series of legal battles. He was arrested in April 2000 on a charge of abusing his then 9-year-old son. That charge was later dropped. In 2002, Hatch was found innocent of assaulting his ex-boyfriend.