‘To Catch a Predator’ star’s check bouncing charge latest in series of legal woes
STAMFORD — As the news about the host of “To Catch a Predator” bouncing checks went viral this week, there was one corner of the web unsurprised of the criminal charges levied against Chris Hansen.
It was a comment page full of people who Hansen owed T-shirts, stickers and mugs. And the 59-year-old TV host is accused of bilking a local business of nearly $13,000 for those T-shirts, stickers and mugs.
“So ... there’s an update,” Christopher Glass wrote on the page of Hansen’s Kickstarter, an online fundraising website. Glass was among 1,220 people who contributed to “Hansen vs. Predator,” a revival of the Shippan resident’s pedophilia-catching NBC show. Hansen successfully raised nearly $89,000 to fund the program, which aired in 2016.
Backers of the show, who contributed an average of $73, were promised a mug for a $20 contribution, a signed photo for $40 and a T-shirt and personalized mug with their name next to Hansen’s “have a seat” tagline for any donation of more than $45.
For many, they said the mugs never came. Meanwhile, other debts started mounting for Hansen, according to civil lawsuits. It appears Hansen’s criminal charges came at the same time he was trying to make the mug pledge right.
“I’ve pretty much written it off,” said Travis Hulce, who is still waiting on a mug delivery in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
“It’s become somewhat of a joke since it has been four years,” he said.
Hansen did not respond to requests for comment.
A Kickstarter spokeswoman said a University of Pennsylvania analysis found that about 9 percent of funded Kickstarter projects fail to fulfill their rewards, such as mugs. Kickstarter does not guarantee projects and does not issue refunds, according to its website.
According to civil suits filed in state Superior Court in Stamford, it isn’t only the Kickstarter backers and mug makers at a city promotion company that Hansen owes money to.
In 2015, American Express sued Hansen for $57,900, claiming he “refused to make payment on the balance due and owing” on a Platinum Card, according to a civil complaint. Hansen didn’t appear in court, and court records show no attorney listed for the media personality.
Last spring, Ally Financial filed a lawsuit, claiming Hansen stopped making payments on his 2014 Corvette, records show. In Ally’s complaint, filed in June 2018, the company said he still owed thousands on the $65,000 sports car when he stopped paying in November 2017.
State Judge Edward R Karazin Jr. in June granted Ally a “replevin order,” allowing the company to repossess the Corvette.
It is unclear what happened to Hansen’s Shippan home, but city tax records show the $963,000 colonial is now owned by US Bank Trust, which took ownership last July.
The lengthy wait for mugs first came to light soon after Hansen’s new show aired its first episode, a predator sting in a Fairfield home. The local sting netted 10 arrests.
In a story on Fox News in 2016 about the rising outcry over missing merchandise, Hansen said the mugs and other goods were on the way.
“Some of donor rewards like custom voicemail messages shipped long ago. I have received the books and photos I need to sign and send out. I will get on that over the weekend,” he emailed Fox at the time.
Some backers later got their mugs.
Zaq Rizer of Pittsburgh got his mug “out of the blue” 2 1/2 years after he contributed $20 to Hansen.
“I had written off the mug entirely,” he said. “I was pleased, but also I was like shocked.”
Staff writer John Nickerson contributed to this report.