SBS withdraws Punchbowl documentary after doubts on gang member

Update: SBS has now withdrawn Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl from its schedule after embarrassing revelations about one of its participants.

2013-12-20_0603SBS will re-edit its documentary series Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl following claims one of its participants has exaggerated his story about incarceration.

The series which looks at the “inside story of the Lebanese community” follows on from Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, and airs in early January.

Heavily-tattooed Michael LaHoud, who features in promotions for the show, told the Sunday Telegraph that he was sentenced to four and a half years in jail in 2007 for armed robbery, serving time at Long Bay, Silverwater and Goulburn jails.

But News Corp reports he spent four days on remand in Silverwater, with no record of him at Long Bay or Goulburn.

He claims to have been a member of the notorious Telopea Street crime gang.

But police experts have no recollection of him being part of that gang.

He also claims to have fathered three children to his partner during jail visits.

The newspaper also reports there is no provision for conjugal visits in the NSW prison system.

“SBS takes your query seriously and is investigating the matter,” a spokeswoman told the newspaper.

LaHoud features in episodes 2, 3 and 4 of the 4 part series, which includes his mother and other police experts.

SBS began removing LaHoud from the show’s on-air promotions.

The flagship series is produced by Northern Pictures.

Press Kit biography:

Michael LaHoud’s turbulent life began one year after he was born when his parent’s marriage collapses leaving Wendy to support her family alone. Michael’s life in crime began when he was expelled from Punchbowl Boys High for hitting a teacher. At 14, Michael began covering his entire body with tattoos as a way of expressing his alienation from mainstream society. Then at 15, Michael became a drug runner. The street gangs of Telopea St, Punchbowl became his new family. As a teenage gangster Michael served time in juvenile detention. He would later be sentenced to a jail term in Silverwater maximum-security prison. After experiencing the brutality of prison Michael finally turned away from crime. Becoming a father of three daughters has helped Michael start a new life.

SBS has released a statement that it has withdrawn the series from its January schedule.

Michael LaHoud is one of a number of interviewees that feature in the documentary series Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl, which explores the history of the Lebanese-Australian community in Sydney’s south-west, the challenges the community has faced and how they have fought to overcome them.  

This is a follow-up series to the award-winning Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta.

The integrity and accuracy of SBS programming and respect for our audience is paramount, therefore the network has decided to remove the series from its schedule until full investigations are carried out to its satisfaction.

SBS will work with its production partner Northern Pictures to review and verify the documentary’s material.

Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl will air later in 2014.

9 Responses

  1. Ronnie, you can’t be serious? One little mistake & you’re calling into question SBS’s entire existence? ABC just don’t have the guts to commission programming like this, even if they did shallow (“merge with”) SBS.

  2. The genre is called factual for a reason – and facts need to be checked and verified. There are major questions being asked about commissioning and content control at SBS. Tony Iffland’s honeymoon period is over and his team are in place. At present SBS is drifting sideways at best. If things don’t improve in 2014 I fear for the future of this strangely positioned broadcaster (in a multi-channel digital world do we need two underfunded broadcasters tripping over each other in program acquisitions? And where does indigenous drama belong? For starters. If it’s time has passed these monumental stuff ups draw the wrong type of attention and questions.

  3. Where should one start with this offensive looking person.Giving him air to tell his tale is not a good look.The face “tats” are disgusting and are worn to intimidate the public,end of story.I have no desire to want to hear his speech of life and now it turns out that he is full of it.What has happened to society?

  4. And the Sunday Telegraph fell for it hook, line and sinker publishing the pic of him with his supposed children and also repeating the claims of him fathering the children during conjugal visits in jail. Now their weekday sister paper has exposed the lies and effectively said that the Sunday Telegraph publishes BS.

    I can only imagine what Rupert is thinking now. Stand by for an editorial shakeup at the Sunday Tele.

  5. A warning for television producers. People will do anything to become famous or notorious on a television reality show. It’s a shame this hoaxer has spoilt what would otherwise have been a great series.

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