It turns out that my personal axiom "Never trust a man in a fedora" remains undefeated.

I recently finished the latest season of Survivor, the long-running CBS reality show, and decided to hop on Reddit to see what other fans thought of the finale. Amid the season analyses and contestant drama was a rather disturbing allegation: according to one Redditor, one of Survivor's most infamous villains was scamming people out of thousands of dollars.

Russell Hantz is an oil worker from Texas who has competed on Survivor three times. He has never won, but has twice been voted...

It turns out that my personal axiom “Never trust a man in a fedora” remains undefeated.

I recently finished the latest season of Survivor, the long-running CBS reality show, and decided to hop on Reddit to see what other fans thought of the finale. Amid the season analyses and contestant drama was a rather disturbing allegation: according to one Redditor, one of Survivor‘s most infamous villains was scamming people out of thousands of dollars.

Russell Hantz is an oil worker from Texas who has competed on Survivor three times. He has never won, but has twice been voted America’s fan favorite contestant, earning him $200,000 in winnings.

If you’re unfamiliar with Survivor, the basic premise is that contestants are dropped in a remote location, separated into tribes, and then forced to vote their tribemates out of the game. Towards the end of the game, tribe members who are voted out make up a jury that chooses the eventual winner. The winner is crowned the “sole survivor” and receives a $1 million prize.

Hantz’s strategy was to get to the end of the game at all costs; he lied to and backstabbed his fellow castaways and sabotaged their supplies in an attempt to weaken them. This earned him the perception of being one of the game’s greatest players, but also one of its most hated. Hantz admitted in an interview in 2018 that he could not fully shake his on-screen persona after leaving the game, which ultimately cost him his marriage. He claimed he did not “go round lying, cheating and stealing” but said he was constantly partying and ignoring his relationship.

However, it appears Hantz has lately been stealing. The Spectator has reviewed dozens of screenshots that confirm Hantz has been organizing fantasy football leagues for Survivor fans but then failing to pay the winners.

Hantz announced he was planning on running several leagues this summer — one with a $100 buy-in and one with a $50 buy-in — but needed commissioners to help him with logistics. Doug Burrell, a fantasy football writer for Gridiron Experts from North Carolina, volunteered. Burrell set up one of the leagues through ESPN’s fantasy platform and helped recruit players. Hantz, however, still collected the dues.

“Tell them that you’re at [sic] the commissioner and it’s $50 to join first to pay [sic] get to play,” Hantz told Burrell in a typo-strewn direct message. “I do this every single year so it’s just something I like to do.”

Messages between Doug Burrell and Russell Hantz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Messages between Doug Burrell and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

Hantz curiously added, “no scam here brother … and if I was to scam it would be more than $50 lol.”

Messages between Doug Burrell and Russell Hantz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Messages between Doug Burrell and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

Burrell offered to collect the dues from players and then send it in bulk to Hantz, but Hantz countered that doing so might seem “shady.” Hantz confirmed with Venmo screenshots that he received money from all of the players. Burrell checked in several times throughout the season to discuss how his and Hantz’s teams were doing, but Hantz did not reply. Burrell would end up winning the league.

“Hi, Russell,” Burrell wrote on January 11. “I know you’re a busy guy… so I wanted to reach out again about the ESPN fantasy league and the payout. I sent a request on Venmo in case you were wondering who it was from. Thanks!”

Again, Hantz did not respond.

Burrell followed up on January 13, asking Hantz to at least confirm that he was receiving his messages. After no reply, Burrell sent one last message.

“I’m just trying one more time man I don’t want to believe that you scammed us. I don’t know what else to do. I sent messages on Twitter, ESPN and Venmo. $600 is not a lot of money, so I don’t see why you would run a scam for that, but I cannot reconcile why you haven’t responded,” he said.

Messages between Doug Burrell and Russell Hantz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Messages between Doug Burrell and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

After Burrell posted screenshots to Twitter, Hantz blocked him from sending further messages.

This was not the first time Hantz ran this scheme.

Michael Catalano from New Jersey joined one of Hantz’s fantasy leagues in the late summer of 2018, the same time Hantz’s season of Australian Survivor was airing on Network Ten.

Hantz tweeted that he was thinking about putting together a fantasy league consisting of eight people at a $100 buy-in. Hantz similarly outsourced the league’s creation to another player but collected the money. The league would grow to fourteen people, including Hantz, which should have guaranteed the winner a $1,400 payout.

Russell Hantz Fantasy Football (Screenshot: Twitter)

(Twitter screenshot)

Catalano eventually won the league in late December, but reached out to Hantz when he did not receive his winnings via a PayPal request.

“I sent the payment request on PayPal already a few days ago,” Catalano told Hantz in a Twitter message. “Please let me know when the payment is sent.”

Over the next month and a half, Hantz offered a string of various excuses as to why he couldn’t get Catalano the $1,400 he was owed. First, Hantz claimed that he was already in the process of filming another show abroad — “we’ve pre-recorded tons of material so please keep that to yourself” — and could only access his social media. If Hantz was indeed filming another show, it never aired.

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

“I’ve email [sic] my assistant to payout,” Hantz told Catalano on December 28, 2018. “We are going to have to payout through my podcast. 3 people didn’t pay and I believe she told me the payout is 9 hundred.”

Catalano confirmed that he had sent a new request to Hantz’s podcast PayPal account and followed up over the next several days. After still not receiving his money, Catalano sent a more frustrated message.

“Are you gonna tell your assistant to send me money or are you trying to beat me out of it,” Catalano questioned. “It only takes a few seconds to go into PayPal and answer a money request… I know your busy but if you run the finances of a league you have to make sure everyone is [paid] at the end.”

Hantz responded in a vaguely threatening manner, writing, “No fucking told you and you know I’m out the country! My assistant has a life and it’s the holidays! And be careful who you’re fucking talking to!!! You’ll get your money when I can do it!!!”

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

After more back and forth, Hantz seemed to admit that he did not have the full payout available in his PayPal account and had to wait for more funds to come through from his podcast. Further complicating the payout, Hantz claimed, was that production on the “show” he was filming “abroad” forbade him from being on his phone, even though he was tweeting regularly.

He offered Catalano $300 and claimed that the rest would come through in a few days. Catalano received the $300, but did not hear from Hantz again until January 21. Instead of offering full payment at that time, Hantz reluctantly promised another $300 to come through on February 1.

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

That was the last time Catalano would hear from Hantz and he would soon be blocked entirely from being able to message the Survivor villain.

Catalano’s final message on February 5 read, “So you’re never going to answer? Because I won’t stop.”

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Messages between Michael Catalano and Russell Hantz (Twitter screenshot)

“I told everyone for a while and no one cares,” Catalano told me. “Glad to see people will realize that he’s using his reality star status to scam people and up until now has been getting away with it.”

Hantz told Burrell that he has been organizing a fantasy football league every year since 2018, leaving open the possibility that more winners have been stiffed. A source tells me that other Survivor contestants caught wind of the scam and refused to participate in Hantz’s fantasy leagues over the years.

Is Hantz desperate for cash? In a YouTube video posted ten months ago, Hantz revealed he was selling all of his Survivor memorabilia due to the show’s role in the dissolution of his marriage and his business. He said he would use the profits from the sale to fly his children out individually to Phi Phi Island in Thailand and “air it all on YouTube” to “show the world what memories look like.” It is unclear how Hantz currently makes money besides his online content.

Hantz did not respond to a request for comment.

During the “Heroes vs. Villains” season of Survivor, eventual winner Sandra Diaz-Twine threw Hantz’s beloved fedora into the camp’s fire. There are probably quite a few fantasy football players who now wish they could do the same.