ATLANTA (AP) — Todd and Julie Chrisley were driven by greed as they engaged in a massive bank fraud scheme and then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyles, federal prosecutors said, arguing that reality TV stars should receive long prison sentences.
The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which follows their close-knit and rowdy family. They were convicted of federal charges in June and are expected to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross in a hearing that begins Monday and is expected to run through Tuesday.
Using a process to calculate a sentencing guideline range based on several factors, federal prosecutors determined that the upper end of that range was nearly 22 years for Todd Chrisley and about 12½ years for Julie Chrisley. The couple should also be ordered to pay restitution, prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
“The Chrisleys built an empire based on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote. “The unanimous jury verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career con artists who have made their living jumping from one fraudulent scheme to another, lying to banks, harassing salespeople and evading taxes at every corner.”
The Chrisleys disagree with the Government’s guideline calculations. Todd Chrisley’s lawyers wrote in a filing that he should face no more than nine years in prison and that the judge should sentence him below the low end of the guidelines. Julie Chrisley’s lawyers wrote that a reasonable sentence for her would be probation with special conditions and no jail time.
The Chrisleys were convicted in June of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the IRS. Julie Chrisley was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
Peter Tarantino, an accountant hired by the couple, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and willfully file false tax returns. He’s about to be sentenced with the Chrisleys.
Prosecutors said the couple submitted false documents to the banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once this scheme fell apart, they waived their responsibility to repay the loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While bankrupt, they launched their reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote. When they started making millions from their show, they hid the money from the IRS to avoid paying taxes.
The Chrisleys submitted a forged document to a grand jury investigating their crimes, then convinced friends and family to lie while testifying under oath at their trial, prosecutors wrote. Neither showed remorse and instead blamed others for their own criminal conduct, prosecutors wrote.
“The Chrisleys are unique given the varied and wide scope of their fraudulent conduct and the extent to which they engaged in fraudulent and obstructive behavior over an extended period of time,” prosecutors wrote.
Lawyers for Todd Chrisley wrote in a court filing that the government never produced evidence that it intended to defraud any of the banks and that the amount of loss calculated by the government is incorrect. They also noted that the offenses he was convicted of were committed a long time ago. He has no serious criminal history and has medical conditions that “would make imprisonment disproportionately harsh”, they wrote.
His attorneys submitted letters from friends and business associates that show “a history of good deeds and efforts to help others.” People who rely on Chrisley – including his mother and the “dozens of people” employed by his TV shows – will be harmed while he is in prison, his lawyers wrote.
They urged the judge to give him a prison sentence below the recommended range, followed by supervised release and restitution.
Lawyers for Julie Chrisley wrote in a filing that she played a minimal role in the conspiracy and was not involved when the loans mentioned in the sentencing documents were obtained. She has no prior convictions, is an asset to her community and has “extraordinary family obligations”, her lawyers wrote, as they sought a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.
The Chrisleys have three children together, including a 16-year-old, and also have full custody of Todd Chrisley’s son’s 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Julie Chrisley is the primary caregiver for her ailing mother-in-law, the filing says. Her lawyers have submitted letters from family and friends which show she is “hardworking, unwavering, dedicated to family and friends, highly respected by all who know her and strong in character”.
If the judge sentences both Chrisleys to prison, Julie Chrisley’s lawyers have asked that their prison sentences be staggered so that she can remain on probation until her husband has finished serving his sentence or until until their granddaughter turns 18.