Big Brother 9 was one big party, but winner Adam Jasinski (top middle and inset) got in hot water after he left the house.
Monty Brinton?CBS

Adam Jasinski (top middle and inset)
Monty Brinton/CBS

Big Brother 9 was one big party, but winner Adam Jasinski (top middle and inset) got in hot water after he left the house.
Monty Brinton?CBS

Confessions of a

REALITY TV FELON

ON APRIL 27, 2008, ADAM JASINSKI WON BIG BROTHER AND THE $500,000 THAT WENT ALONG WITH IT. WHAT HE DID WITH SOME OF THE CBS PRIZE MONEY LANDED HIM—AND A CASTMATE—BEHIND BARS.

BY LYNETTE RICE @LYNETTERICE

When Hollywood writers went on strike in November 2007, CBS—like so many other networks—scrambled to fill its schedule with shows that didn’t require new scripts. That meant prime-time episodes of The Price Is Right. There was also a Canadian import called Flashpoint, which was purchased during the work stoppage and aired later in the summer. And in perhaps the boldest stroke of all, the network ordered its first-ever winter edition of summer reality guilty pleasure Big Brother.

The move made sense. After all, the show was cheap, only required 16 strangers who were willing to sequester themselves in a camera-filled house, already had a loyal audience, and was easy to get back into production. Julie Chen was even free to host. Despite a few embarrassing bumps along the way—like a group make-out session in the pool that looked like a scene from a low-rent porno—the Band-Aid to the schedule did its job. On April 27, 2008, a high-strung public relations director named Adam Jasinski outplayed the likes of a DJ company owner, bikini barista, porn star, paparazzo, and former Penthouse Pet to be crowned the ninth champion of Big Brother.

When asked on national television what he would do with his $500,000 prize, Jasinski promised to invest a fifth of it in an after-school program (he had worked for the United Autism Foundation, a Florida nonprofit, before entering the house). “I would love to start a business,” said Jasinski, looking straight into the camera. “I don’t bully, BS, nobody, man. A car would be a luxury. But...bottom line, I’ll help children. I’ll change lives.

Julie Chen presents Jasinski with his novelty winner's check
Frederick Brown/Getty Images

The only life he would end up changing was his own. A year after leaving the reality show, Jasinski used his prize money to fuel a pill-hawking operation that was spawned, in part, by an ongoing addiction to painkillers and an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. After flying from Florida to Massachusetts with a large number of oxycodone pills in his carry-on bag, Jasinski was captured on Oct. 17, 2009, by law enforcement in a Boston-area strip mall. He pleaded guilty a year later to one count of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and another for failure to file a tax return on his Big Brother winnings. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison. It was a shocking postscript to a show that was never even meant to air. And yet it launched a journey that ultimately saved Jasinski’s life.

“Most people don’t realize that mental illness sits in a closet and waits. It’s genetic and predisposed,” says Jasinski, 38, who is as fast-talking today as he was on Big Brother. “It doesn’t really manifest itself until something happens, like a life-triggering event. I was manic, and that fed my addiction. I was great at selling and doing drugs, you know?
A lot of successful people are bipolar, but I chose to channel my energies into bad stuff,
because it was more exciting and fun. Who wants to get laid and not get high?”

Adam Jasinski (R) celebrates his victory
Frederick Brown/Getty Images

“I'm a great manipulator. Drug addicts are the most resourceful people. You’re constantly conning money out of people to survive. I think my being a drug addict was one of the reasons why I won Big Brother.”

Jasinski is sitting in a bare office inside Oceans Medical Centers, a small rehabilitation facility in Boynton Beach, Fla., that was launched by his mother, Denise, in 2016. These days, the center serves as Jasinski’s home away from home since, as a convicted felon, his job prospects are limited. It’s also the place Jasinski feels most comfortable sharing his story about how an affable and reckless young man from Cherry Hill, N.J., managed to triumph on one of TV’s most popular reality shows. “I had them all fooled,” he recalls with a huge grin. “They still don’t know me.”

And there are still things people never knew about Jasinski’s wild Big Brother experience—until now. Like the fact that he smuggled a fistful of OxyContin into the house. Or that he was forced into withdrawal on live TV after producers uncovered his secret stash during week 2. “I was freakin’ dope sick,” says Jasinski, who remembers bringing in enough pills to take up to three a day until the end of the game. “That was the day I had lost a food challenge, and I was in bed sick. Everyone thought I was [pouting]. That covered my
ass. I was withdrawing, but it wasn’t like I was taking $1,000 a day worth of drugs. So
after three or four days, I was better. I didn’t say a word about this until today.”

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It’s a stunning admission since no one—including producers—knew about Jasinski’s decade long addiction to painkillers. “If we ever find anything, the players are absolutely told it has to be out of the house,” says Big Brother executive producer Allison Grodner, who adds that she was not personally aware Jasinski had a drug problem. Yet Jasinski claims he had a legitimate prescription for OxyContin—a drug he began taking at 20 after he was involved in a nasty car accident on the way back from a University of Pennsylvania fraternity party. “My face was broken open,” recalls Jasinski, who still sports a scar above his top lip and suffers from constant back pain. “There was blood everywhere. I get in the ambulance and they’re like, ‘Kid, you’re going to die.’”

By that time, Jasinski was already an experienced user. Having smoked his first joint at 13, Jasinski experimented with Xanax and crack cocaine while attending high school, and even sold drugs. “My dad had a motorcycle business, so I got an early work release,” he explains. “I would go to North Philadelphia and buy hard drugs, come back, and sell them to everyone in school. That was my lunch break.”


MRS. PEABODY

Thank you, Jack. I don’t know why my husband loved that thing so much - something’s always wrong with it. Maybe I should just sell it.

Jack GASPS, playfully.

It was a torturous time for his mother, who used to sit and wait for her son on the living-room recliner every Friday and Saturday night. “It was nonstop,” recalls Denise Jasinski, who would bring home drug tests from her then job at a blood-testing facility so she could check her son’s urine. “Looking back, that was the beginning of his disorder. He would be up for days after he was out of high school. And then there would be days where he would sleep. I was beginning to see these traits.”

Initially diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and prescribed Ritalin, Jasinski made it through high school and into a local community college, where a sudden interest in fashion led to a yearlong study program in Italy. This is how his career in reality TV began. After launching a small clothing company called Girls Who Kiss Girls, Jasinski got a job as a low-level producer on the first season of The Apprentice. “I worked in Trump Tower!” he says with a grin. “I saw Trump every week. One day he came right up to me and said, ‘Mr. Jasinski, I appreciate your work,’ and shook my hand.” From there, Jasinski auditioned for The Cut, Tommy Hilfiger’s short-lived fashion competition on CBS. Though he didn’t secure an on-camera spot, Jasinski caught the attention of casting director Robyn Kass, who flew him out from Florida to the Big Brother production offices two years later. “When he came into the room he was this whirlwind ball of energy,” recalls Grodner. “He had a lot of interesting thoughts on how to play the game. Is he smart? Crazy? We were intrigued.”

But while Jasinski’s outgoing and outrageous manner would make him a casting department’s dream reality TV candidate, there were warning signs—the incessant chatter, those bugged-out eyes, his nervous chain-smoking—that friends and family believe were overlooked. “It didn’t take a genius or even a person who had any familiarity with bipolar disorder to know something was wrong with Adam, other than just being hyperactive,” says his defense attorney Valerie Carter. Even Sheila Kennedy, then a 45-year-old former model who was partnered with Jasinski as part of the game’s ’Til Death Do You Part twist, thought something was “odd” about him. “I was like, whoa, you’ve got to be kidding me,” she remembers about Jasinski. “He’s so different from everyone else that walked in the house. It just didn’t feel like he belonged there.”


MRS. PEABODY

Thank you, Jack. I don’t know why my husband loved that thing so much - something’s always wrong with it. Maybe I should just sell it.

Jack GASPS, playfully.

JACK


You watch your mouth, Mrs. Peabody. This is a 1967 Chevelle. You cannot sell a 1967 Chevelle.

MRS. PEABODY
(smiles)

Alright, alright, I’ll keep it.

With Big Brother partner and adversary Sheila Kennedy
Monty Brinton/CBS

He certainly showed a horrifying lack of judgment. Within 24 hours of starting the game, Jasinski set off a firestorm outside the house by telling his castmates he wanted to open “a hair salon for kids with special needs so the retards can get it together and get their hair done.” When Kennedy objected, Jasinski replied, “I can call them whatever I want” because “I work with them all day.” Within a week, Long Island-based nonprofit Autism United demanded that CBS cancel the show over his remarks. Asked to explain his actions today, Jasinski says he was attempting to shorthand “mentally disabled children” so his fellow players would understand him.

And yet it only furthered the distance between Jasinski and his partner, who was the
oldest player in the house. “I really couldn’t stand him,” remembers Kennedy. “We
fought through the whole game. He was awful.” But remarkably, Jasinski was able to
steer the attention away from his toxic partnership and toward his fellow players, most of whom were more interested in hooking up than winning the game. The biggest bad boy in the house was Matt McDonald, a trash-talking construction worker from Boston with a big personality and a set of blindingly white teeth. He and Jasinski became fast friends. “He was from the East Coast like myself, and those are people I gravitate to,” recalls McDonald, who memorably fooled around with—and verbally abused—his then game partner Natalie Cunial. “I kind of connected to him right away. Personality-wise, we were kind of similar.”

So when Jasinski managed to outplay the competition and make it to the final opposite
college student Ryan Quicksall, McDonald was Jasinski’s most vocal supporter in the
jury house. “He’s a good liar,” he told the others. “He made deals...and double-crossed
all of youse. He’s a better player.” On finale night, most of the jury members like Ken-
nedy tried to speak earnestly about why Jasinski earned their votes, but the most
entertaining—and prophetic—comment came from the pink-mohawk-sporting James
Zinkand, who quipped, “I hope you party away this money.”

Adam Jasinski, winner of Big Brother 9
Frederick Brown/Getty Images

Jasinski’s downward postshow spiral began with a hotel orgy. After the Big Brother wrap party, Jasinski admits he joined at least one other houseguest and that houseguest’s sibling at a nearby hotel to have group sex. (Multiple Big Brother
fansites alleged that McDonald was also part of the bacchanal, but he denied it later via a personal blog.) “I was f---ed up,” Jasinski shrugs, saying he left the house not planning to do drugs. “I was going to do the right thing. But someone gave me a Percocet on day 2 and I was doing coke within three days.”

The celebration didn’t stop there. Nightclubs all over the country extended invites to Jasinski to make paid appearances, which further boosted his checking account, at $1,000 and $2,000 a pop. After all, the freshly minted reality champ had lots of expensive postshow promises to keep—though giving $100,000 to United Autism wasn’t one of them. “I got out and they were like, ‘You’re fired.’ I wasn’t going to give them the money. I was only trying to do the right thing.”

Instead, Jasinski bought three houses and a fourplex back in Florida while sticking to his plan to start a business—which turned out to be peddling pills. But this time, he wasn’t going to do it alone: McDonald, his newfound friend from the game, was eager to join him. “I don’t remember specific details of how it came into play,” says McDonald. “I might have been the one pressing him or it might have been vice versa. I was made aware that he had access to a certain thing and I had access to get rid of a certain thing.”


Adam Jasinski parties in 2009
Jared Jasinski

Building a drug inventory wasn’t a problem for Jasinski, especially living in Florida. “It’s the pill-mill capital of the world,” he says. “People were coming here from all over the country to get pills. I’d have girls go into the doctor’s all day and get scrips.” Then he’d flip the product to his customers not just in the Sunshine State but back in New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts as well. It was one of his repeat buyers in Boston who ultimately turned him over to the feds.

“I knew something was fishy about him,” remembers Jasinski about the time his customer begged him to come to Boston with 2,000 pills. “He just conned me into it. Jasinski hid a bundle of pills in a carry-on bag, flew to Massachusetts, and met the buyer at the airport. Once the guy drove to a nearby strip mall and pretended he had to run into a CVS, Jasinski knew it was over. “Eight guys tackled me and f---ed my neck all up,” he recalls. “It was crazy. One was like, ‘Put your hands up.’ One was ‘Put your hands behind your back.’ The other was ‘Hit the ground.’ I was like, ‘What do you want me to do?’ ”

But such busts were becoming routine for law enforcement, especially in Boston, given
the city’s heavy concentration of hospitals. Abuse of oxycodone had mushroomed in the
nation, with one study by the Drug Abuse Warning Network revealing that ER visits
involving the painkiller had increased 153 percent between 2004 and 2008.”

Matt McDonald turned into Jasinski's partner in crime
Monty Brinton/CBS

“There was a time that, because oxycodone pills may be obtained by prescription, people were less apt to recognize it as being as dangerous and problematic a drug as heroin or cocaine,” recalls Linda Ricci, the deputy chief of narcotics and money laundering in Boston’s U.S. attorney’s office. “At some point the alarm sounded, and [Adam’s case] was one of many, many oxycodone trafficking cases prosecuted by this office. That we are now facing an opioid epidemic in Massachusetts resulting from the use and abuse of oxycodone and heroin is indisputable.”

Back in New Jersey, Jasinski’s mom learned about her son’s arrest while listening to news radio in her car. So when she got the call asking her to post bail, Denise Jasinski already knew how she was going to respond. “I said no. I was leaving for a cruise and he needed to stay there and detox,” she recalls. “I knew he was in a safe place. He had hit bottom and needed to find out what the hell was going on with himself.”

His attorney was trying to find out as well. “I couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” remembers Carter of meeting with her client. “His eyes were wide open. He was moving all around and talking incessantly. He was so far different from any defendant I had ever represented, and I have been doing this for 30 years.” Carter, who has a relative who is bipolar, was the first person in Jasinski’s life to suggest that he might have an undiagnosed mental disorder.


She took issue with how CBS handled the situation. “You don’t take a young person and turn him loose with that much money, making club appearances with all kinds of alcohol and pills floating around,” Carter says. CBS did debrief Jasinski after the show, but only, he says, to make him aware of the negative publicity surrounding his “retards” comment. “There was no conversation like, ‘Here’s the number to a financial adviser. Pay your taxes. Open a money market account!’ I walked into a Bank of America with $500,000.” (CBS had no comment, but EW has confirmed that all Big Brother winners go through an extensive debrief, including meeting with an accountant. Recalls Grodner now: “I felt bad for him. Obviously he had a problem. It was an incredibly unfortunate situation, and the truth is, it was shocking.”)

Before sentencing, Jasinski spent almost five months at an in-patient drug treatment facility in Massachusetts and another half year in treatment at a New Jersey hospital while living at home with his parents. He also enrolled in a program through the University of Pennsylvania that began treating his bipolar disorder. “After treatment, I felt I was in a good position to try to convince the judge that [the typical] 70-to-87-month sentence was not appropriate,” says Carter. On Jan. 21, 2011, a U.S. District Court judge in Boston agreed to a lesser sentence.

"I still have those pants," says Jasinski of this in-custody photo. "I wear them all the time."

But Jasinski still had to spend four years behind bars. His first stop was a federal holding facility in Brooklyn. “It was so f---ing crazy,” Jasinski recalls. “I was on the top bunk under these lights. I had to stay there all night. I paid some kid six Snickers bars to open it up with nail clippers and knock the lightbulbs out so I could sleep.”

He eventually completed his sentence at a minimum-security prison in Morgantown, W.Va. “There were a lot of guys from Wolf of Wall Street there, a lot of senators,” recalls Jasinski. (It’s also where a fellow CBS reality champion, Survivor’s Richard Hatch, did most of his time for tax evasion.) “There was no fence. It was like a camp, but you only get 300 minutes a month on the phone. So if you have a girlfriend and a mom, that’s five minutes a day each.” He wiled away the time working out, reading, and watching movies in the prison’s theater. “I was a little bit overmedicated, but I didn’t mind. I wasn’t depressed or manic.” And he found comfort in knowing that his mother got the answers she had long sought about her son. “She had an excuse for the way I behaved. She was proud that her kid was bipolar. Like, it’s better than a drug-addict scumbag.”

McDonald also went from the Big Brother house to the big house, though he says he had given up selling and doing drugs by the time he was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone on April 27, 2010, and taken into custody. “I was working at the W Hotel and I was at a meeting,” says McDonald, 33. “I was actually supposed to be nominated for employee of the month that month. All of a sudden someone taps me on the shoulder and they say, ‘Hey, the district attorney wants to talk to you.’ Before you know it, in come two gentlemen with ‘DEA’ written on their jackets. I was almost questioning why they were there because I kind of turned my life around before I got in trouble. But the past catches up to you, and I had to pay for what I did.”

McDonald was sentenced on May 11, 2011, to 36 months in federal prison. He and Jasinski have not spoken since Jasinski’s arrest—even though they live a mere 30 miles from each other—but he does not blame the guy they nicknamed “Baller” on the show for the ordeal. “A lot of people ask if I’m mad at Adam,” says McDonald, who now works as a project manager for a construction company in Fort Lauderdale and is about to get married. “You know what? I’m not. I’ve done a lot of growing up and he didn’t force me to do anything. He offered, and I went for the money. I took a shot, and naturally that shot landed me in prison.”

Jasinski with girlfriend Veronica Ritchie
Adam Jasinski

Jasinski with mother Denise, who owns a rehab facility in Florida
Adam Jasinski

A Younger Rebecca


As the unofficial greeter of Oceans Medical, Jasinski likes to chat with the new patients and make them feel at home. Today he has set his sights on a burly young man in cargo shorts who just checked in after overdosing on heroin in college. Jasinski addresses the kid like they were pals from the old neighborhood. “That’s the key to success,” he says afterward. “I’m equal to them. I tell them, ‘I was in your same shoes.’ ”

But not anymore. These days the only drug in his life is ibuprofen for the pain he
still suffers from the accident, and a low dose of lithium, which allows him to experience
the highs but, unfortunately, can’t stop the lows. At least Jasinski knows what to expect.
“I know when I’m getting depressed. Guess what? I motherf---ing enjoy it! I watch some
good movies, I feel sorry for myself, tell my girl I’m in a bad mood, wah-wah-wah for two
days, then I’m good for a couple months.”

It’s important for Jasinski to feel in control, so he likes to stick to a schedule—near-daily trips to the clinic, five-day-a-week workouts, and a standing date with his girlfriend, Veronica Ritchie, every Tuesday night at the local cinema. He says he’s comfortable financially, mostly living on rental income after paying off his $190,000 tax burden from Big Brother shortly after leaving prison, and working to self-publish his own rehab books. He’s even reconnected with his old TV partner/adversary Kennedy, who notes that “Adam and Matty should be able to go on with their lives and live.”


That’s Jasinski’s plan. “If you do the right thing and you help people in this world, it’s payback. I paid all my bad karma back. I’m ahead of the game now. I’m doing phenomenal. I wake up, I have a great life, I have a great girl, I have a great house. I just want to be good.” But occasionally he can’t help but dream of going back to the TV show that made him infamous, if only to prove a point. “I wish they had an all-stars,” he says with a massive grin. “I would win so fast.” ◆

5 MORE REALITY STARS WHO SPENT TIME BEHIND BARS

FOR THESE OTHER UNSCRIPTED CELEBS, THINGS GOT ALL TOO REAL ONCE THE CAMERAS TURNED OFF.

Richard Hatch
Survivor

He was Survivor’s first winner, yet paid dearly for it: Hatch was convicted in 2006 for failing to pay taxes on his $1 million prize and another $300,000-plus in rental-property and Boston radio-show income. He was incarcerated for three years and later served an additional nine months for failing to pay back taxes."

Teresa Giudice
The Real Housewives of New Jersey

The RHONJ star and her husband, Joe, were indicted on 41 counts of fraud for allegedly exaggerating earnings while applying for loans before the show and concealing income in a bankruptcy filing after season 1. She pleaded
guilty to four counts and served almost a year.

Amber Portwood
Teen Mom

The star of MTV’s Teen Mom pleaded guilty to two counts of felony domestic violence against former fiancé Gary Shirley (her sentence was suspended). She eventually spent 17 months at the Rockville Correctional Facility after pleading guilty to a drug charge and dropping out of a court-mandated rehab program.

Renee Alway
America’s Next Top Model

After coming in third on ANTM in 2007, Alway became homeless, turning to drugs and a life of crime: In 2014 she pleaded guilty to felony burglary, vehicle theft, and illegal possession of a firearm after getting busted for breaking into a Palm Springs home. The mother of three was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

C.J. Harris
American Idol

After his country vocal style earned him a sixth-place finish in season 13 of American Idol, Harris was arrested for selling oxycodone and marijuana during a drug bust in Alabama last October. He spent 17 days in jail after failing to appear for a scheduled court date.

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