OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. (WJBK) - The preliminary hearing of a television 'Survivor' got under way today in an Oakland County courthouse.
Michael Skupin has been charged with felonies that could put him behind bars for 20 years, but he didn't look too ruffled as he faced his alleged victims reports Rob Wolchek.
A flight attendant, a longtime personal friend, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan. These are just a few of the average people who say they got robbed by a guy they saw as a celebrity.
"I don't trust people with my money," said a witness. "I work pretty (expletive) hard for my money so I'm pretty pissed."
Reality TV star Mike Skupin looks cool as a cucumber as witnesses testify about an investment program they say he personally talked them into.
"He tried to assure me that his business was legitimate," said another witness. "That it was legal and that he was working with the attorney general on a very regular basis to make sure all his legal i's were dotted and his t's were crossed."
It was day one of Skupin's preliminary hearing. Six witnesses explained how they gave Skupin cash and were promised big returns, up to eight times their original investments.
Wolchek investigated and confronted the Survivor star in 2013 regarding his "Pay It Forward" program. It sure looked like a Ponzi scheme to Wolchek and Attorney General Bill Schuette agreed, charging Skupin with several counts of larceny by conversion and with one count of conducting a criminal enterprise.
Skupin denied it was a Ponzi scheme and in previous investigation by Wolchek said he didn't even know what a Ponzi scheme was.
His Hall of Shame story alerted some to question a TV star they thought was a good guy.
Witness Shelly Parsons says she gave Skupin $13,000.
"I saw something from the Hall of Shame guy who had done something and I realized if it was being investigated and if the whole system stopped I wasn't likely to get paid out," Parsons said.
And she didn't. No one in court says they made any money and none got any of their initial investment back. And just like when Wolchek questioned Skupin, they say he copped an arrogant attitude when confronted.
Attorney: "Did there come a point in time when the contact just ceased?"
"He told me if I didn't speak to him respectfully," one witness said, "he would stop communicating with me and I did not get any more communication."
Skupin's preliminary hearing will continue on June 3, the first session dealt with the financial crime charges against him, he is also being charged with several counts of child pornography that the attorney general's office say they found on his seized laptop computers.