TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley get years in prison for fraud and tax evasion

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

UPDATE: Todd Chrisley was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Julie Chrisley was sentenced to seven years in prison on Nov. 21, according to prosecutors.

The Chrisleys’ accountant Peter Tarantino was sentenced to three years in prison.

The court has also ordered both Todd and Julie Chrisley to pay restitution and will determine the exact amount at a later date.

The original story continues below.

Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley disagree with federal prosecutors who argue the couple should get “lengthy” prison sentences after they were found guilty of fraud and tax evasion charges, court filings show.

Now they await a judge’s decision at a sentencing hearing starting Monday, Nov. 21, that may last until Tuesday, Nov. 22, according to The Associated Press. The couple stars in “Chrisley Knows Best,” which premiered March 2014 on the USA Network.

Prosecutors said the Chrisleys’ crimes go back to before the show aired — when they defrauded banks in Atlanta and illegally obtained loans worth tens of millions of dollars — and lasted throughout filming, according to a June news release.

“The Chrisleys have built an empire based on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “The jury’s unanimous verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career swindlers who have made a living by jumping from one fraud scheme to another, lying to banks, stiffing vendors, and evading taxes at every corner.”

Prosecutors have recommended Todd Chrisley be sentenced to 17.5 to nearly 22 years in federal prison and his wife be sentenced to 10 to 12.5 years in prison based on the charges they were convicted on, according to a sentencing memo.

However, Todd Chrisley and his attorneys argued against the prosecutors’ suggestion, writing in his own sentencing memo nine years should be the maximum. The memo goes on to say that Todd Chrisley should receive a “below guideline sentence.”

Meanwhile, Julie Chrisley and her attorneys said “a reasonable sentence for (her) does not include incarceration,” arguing in her sentencing memo she had a “minimal role” in the offenses charged.”

McClatchy News contacted attorneys representing the Chrisleys for comment on Nov. 21 and was awaiting a response.

The case resulting in charges

In June, after a three-week trial, a federal jury found Todd and Julie Chrisley guilty of conspiring to defraud banks in Atlanta out of more than $30 million of fraudulent loans, tax evasion and several tax crimes, “including conspiring to defraud the IRS,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia’s news release. Julie Chrisley was also found guilty of wire fraud and obstruction of justice, prosecutors say.

This came after they were charged in August 2019, according to an earlier release.

Their accountant, Peter Tarantino, was also found guilty of tax crimes and “filing two false corporate tax returns on behalf of the Chrisleys’ company,” according to prosecutors.

He will also be sentenced at the Chrisleys’ hearing, the AP reported.

McClatchy News contacted Tarantino’s attorney for comment on Nov. 21 and was awaiting a response.

In their sentencing memo, prosecutors wrote that the Chrisleys were “driven by greed.”

The case dates to before the Chrisleys became reality TV show stars in March 2014, according to prosecutors. This is when they built their “empire.”

The show highlighted Todd Chrisley as a “self-made multimillionaire,” featuring him and his family, including Julie Chrisley and their five children, according to IMDb.

“Their ‘empire’ was built upon the backs of defrauded community banks that collapsed while Todd Chrisley used the stolen money to fly to Los Angeles for bi-weekly haircuts,” prosecutors wrote.

After defrauding Atlanta banks out of millions in loans, the Chrisleys went on a spending spree, buying luxury cars, clothes and real estate and funding their travel, according to the release. Additionally, they “used new fraudulent loans to pay back old ones.”

Then, “after spending all the money, Todd Chrisley filed for bankruptcy and walked away from more than $20 million of the fraudulently obtained loans,” prosecutors said.

He filed for bankruptcy when their reality show began, according to the release.

With their show, the Chrisleys “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo.

“As they began making money from the show, they hid it and refused to pay the federal income taxes that their viewers pay every year. Even while making millions of dollars, they insisted on defrauding everyone they encountered in the smallest ways imaginable. … And, believing themselves to be untouchable, Todd and Julie Chrisley tried to obstruct the grand jury investigating their crimes and put up their family members and friends to lie for them at trial,” prosecutors said.

At one point, Todd Chrisley lied about filing income tax returns and paying income taxes on a national radio program in February 2017, according to the 2019 release from the attorney’s office.

He declared “obviously the federal government likes my tax returns because I pay 750,000 to 1 million dollars just about every year so the federal government doesn’t have a problem with my taxes,” prosecutors said.

The Chrisleys’ show continued to air after they were indicted. The most recent episode aired Aug. 11.

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