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ATLANTA — Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on Monday 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 got seven years behind bars, according to the US attorney’s office in Atlanta. Each is to serve three years of probation afterward, and Ross also ordered them to pay restitution in an amount to be determined later.
The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show ‘Chrisley Knows Best’, which follows their close-knit and boisterous family. Federal prosecutors said the couple engaged in a vast bank fraud scheme and then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle.
“The Chrisleys built an empire based on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing before sentencing. “The jury’s unanimous verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career con artists who have made a living jumping from one fraud scheme to another, lying to banks, stiffing salesmen, and dodging taxes at every turn.” “.
Lawyers for Todd Chrisley, 54, had argued in court that he faced no more than nine years in prison. Lawyers for Julie Chrisley, 49, said a reasonable sentence for her would be probation with special conditions and no jail time.
The Chrisleys were convicted in June on charges 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, 60, an accountant hired by the couple, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and willfully filing false tax returns. On Monday he was sentenced to three years in prison followed by three years of probation.
Prosecutors said the Chrisleys filed false paperwork with banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once the scheme fell apart, they walked away from their responsibility to repay the loans when Todd Chrisley filed for bankruptcy. While bankrupt, they started their own reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote, and then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS.
The Chrisleys also presented a false ID to a grand jury investigating their crimes and then convinced friends and family to lie under oath during the trial, prosecutors argued. Neither showed any remorse and, instead, blamed others for their criminal conduct, prosecutors wrote.
“The Chrisleys are unique given the varied and broad scope of their fraudulent conduct and the extent to which they engaged in fraud and obstructive behavior over an extended period of time,” prosecutors said.
Todd Chrisley’s lawyers said in a statement that the government never produced any evidence that it intended to defraud the banks and that the calculated loss amount was incorrect. They also noted that the offenses were committed a long time ago and said he has no serious criminal record and has medical conditions that “would make incarceration disproportionately harsh”.
His lawyers had also sent letters from friends and business associates showing “a history of good deeds and efforts to help others”. The people who rely on Chrisley, including her mother and the many people employed by her television programs, will be harmed while she is in prison, they argued.
They urged the judge to give him a less-than-limit prison sentence, followed by supervised release and return.
Julie Chrisley’s attorneys said she played a minimal role in the conspiracy and was not involved when the loans discussed in the sentencing documents were obtained. She has no prior convictions, is an asset to her community, and has “extraordinary family obligations,” her attorneys wrote, seeking a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.
The Chrisleys have three children together, one of whom is 16, as well as full custody of Todd Chrisley’s son’s 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Julie Chrisley is the primary caregiver for her sick mother-in-law, according to the filing.
Her lawyers also sent character witness letters describing her as “hard working, unfailingly selfless, devoted to her family and friend, well respected by all who know her, and strong in character.”