Two former 'Survivor: Borneo' contestants tell TMZ they flatly dispute the allegation of Richard Hatch's lawyer that the TV show covered up cheating. But two others on the island say there were some shenanigans in the dark of night.
Hatch is currrently on trial in a Rhode Island federal court for failing to pay taxes on his million-dollar prize, which he won in the first season of 'Survivor.' This morning, his lawyer, Michael Minns, told the judge that Hatch caught some of his fellow contestants trying to have friends sneak food to them on the island. According to Minns, Hatch struck a deal with the producers: he would keep quiet about the cheating and the show would pay the taxes on the grand prize if he won.
Today, Rudy Boesch, one of Hatch's fellow contestants, told TMZ, "I think he's just talking. What friends could bring...food? There ain't no friends on the island."
Dr. Sean Kenniff, another contestant, echoed Boesch's sentiment to TMZ: "I never witnessed any cheating by 'Survivor' contestants, 'Survivor' producers or other 'Survivor' staff."
"During my 36 days on the island," Kenniff added, "I lost about 30 pounds -- fair evidence that I certainly wasn't the recipient of any prohibited food!"
But TMZ spoke exclusively with a cameraman on the island, who says everyone knew that some of the contestants were stealing food. "We had our own little area, a couple of hundred yards away from the contestants."
The cameraman, who asked not to be identified by name, added: "They [the contestants] would sneak in and we would see candy wrappers around their camp." He added that when the show was over, they found some wrappers under the beds of contestants.
Another first-season contestant told TMZ, she saw some of her fellow contestants chowing down on illicit power bars and Werther's Originals. She asked that we not identify her by name.
Hatch, who is currently on the stand in his own defense, has not testified about the allegations. Today Hatch testified how the behavioral problems of his son proved terribly distracting. Attorney Minns has said Hatch was so distracted by the problems that any failure to pay taxes was an oversight. Minns comment is arguably inconsistent with the notion of a secret deal.
Curiously, 'Survivor' creator Mark Burnett has already testified in the trial, and Hatch's lawyer never asked him about sneaking food on the island or about a secret deal between producers and Hatch.
Burnett returned TMZ's call and said he could not comment because it was an ongoing case. CBS told TMZ they do not comment on ongoing legal matters.