Survivor's Michael Skupin Found Guilty on Child Pornography Charges
Michael Skupin was found guilty Friday of four of six counts of child pornography after a one-day trial, a spokesperson from Michigan Oakland County Clerk confirms to PEOPLE.
The two-time Survivor contestant, 54, had pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of child pornography and racketeering stemming from an investigation by the Michigan attorney general.
According to the clerk’s spokesperson, the pornography and financial charges were split and Skupin will be tried separately for the racketeering charges beginning next week, after which his sentence will be handed down.
Skupin, who was arrested in February, had been out on bond during his trial and will remain out on bond until the conclusion of the second trial, according to a source close to him.
According to the attorney general, the investigation into Skupin began when a woman alleged on the local news that she was a victim of a gifting scheme. She said that she invested in Pay It Forward, in which her donations cycled through a chart of investors, until she was paid by new investors’ money. Other alleged victims came forward, claiming they had also paid cash into the program.
During law enforcement’s investigation into Skupin, they they discovered child pornography on his computer, authorities have said.
“The children in these videos and images were exploited, and each time the images were shared and viewed continued their suffering,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement. “My hope is that today’s conviction will bring some closure to the families and the children that are victims in this case.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Skupin maintained his innocence, saying in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE before his trial that the computer was used by multiple people. He also told PEOPLE that the images are not date stamped, so it is unclear when, exactly, they were accessed — or if they were accessed at all.
Skupin also said that the investment scheme was not fraudulent – and that he has the evidence to back up his claims in court.
“This has been the longest, hardest, and most arduous 10 months of my entire life. Nothing compares to it,” Skupin’s statement read. “Family and friends have both shown up in a big way or have left my life completely. I have witnessed a level of love I never thought possible — and also a level of judgement and abandonment that I never knew existed.”
Skupin, who is the father of seven children, appeared on Survivor: The Australian Outback, where he became the first person to be medically evacuated from the reality show after he fell into a fire. He also competed in Survivor: Philippines.
Skupin’s lawyer, Steven Lynch, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.