Reality TV host Chrislis receives heavy penalties in fraud case

Todd Chrisley, left, and his wife, Julie Chrisley, pose for photos at the 52nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 2, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Jordan Strauss/Jordan Strauss/Invision/AFP

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Todd Chrisley, left, and his wife, Julie Chrisley, pose for photos at the 52nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 2, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Jordan Strauss/Jordan Strauss/Invision/AFP

ATLANTA — Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were sentenced Monday to lengthy prison terms after being convicted earlier this year on charges including bank fraud and tax evasion.

US District Judge Eleanor Ross in Atlanta sentenced Todd Chrisley to 12 years in prison, while Julie Chrisley was sentenced to seven years in prison, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. They would each serve three years thereafter supervising the release, and Ross also ordered them to pay compensation in an amount to be determined.

The Chrisleys gained fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which follows their tight-knit, bustling family. Federal prosecutors said the couple engaged in a massive bank fraud scheme, then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle.

“They built an empire on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote in a pre-sentencing memorandum. “The jury’s unanimous verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career frauds and made a living by jumping from one scam scheme to another, lying to banks, recruiting sellers, and evading taxes around every corner.”

Attorneys for Todd Chrisley, 54, argued in a lawsuit that he should not face more than nine years in prison. Attorneys for Julie Chrisley, 49, said a reasonable sentence for her would be probation on special terms and no jail time.

Al Chrisley was convicted in June of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the IRS. Julie Chrisley was also convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.

Peter Tarantino, the 60-year-old accountant the couple hired, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and knowingly filing false tax returns. He was sentenced Monday to three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Prosecutors said the Chrisley family provided fraudulent documents to banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once this scheme collapsed, they gave up their responsibility to repay the loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While bankrupt, they started their reality show and “flaunt their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote, then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS.

Prosecutors argued that the Chrisley family also provided a false document to a grand jury that was investigating their crimes and then persuaded friends and family members to lie under oath during their trial. Neither of them showed any remorse, prosecutors wrote, and instead blamed others for their criminal behavior.

“The Chrisley family is unique given the diverse and widespread range of their fraudulent behavior and the extent to which they engaged in fraud and obstructive behavior over a prolonged period of time,” prosecutors said.

Attorneys for Todd Chrisley said in a filing that the government never presented any evidence that he intended to defraud the banks, and that the amount of loss calculated was incorrect. They also noted that the crimes were committed a long time ago and said he had no serious criminal history and had medical conditions “that would have made imprisonment disproportionately harsh.”

His attorneys have also sent letters from friends and business associates that show a “history of good deeds and striving to help others.” They argued that people who depended on Chrisley—including his mother and several people working on his television shows—would be harmed while he was in prison.

They urged the judge to grant him a prison sentence below the guideline, followed by supervised release and restitution.

Attorneys for Julie Chrisley maintained that she played a minimal role in the plot and was not involved when the loans discussed in the sentencing documents were obtained. She has no previous convictions, is an asset to her community, and has “unusual family obligations,” her lawyers wrote, asking for a sentence of probation, compensation, and community service.

The Chrisleys have three children together, including a 16-year-old, as well as full custody of Todd Chrisley’s 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Julie Chrisley is the primary caregiver for her ailing mother-in-law, according to the filing.

Her attorneys also provided letters from eyewitnesses describing her as “hardworking, tirelessly selfless, devoted to her family and friend, well respected by all who knew her, and of strong character”.

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