ATLANTA (AP) – Todd and Julie Chrisley were driven by greed when they engaged in a massive bank fraud scheme and then hid their assets 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, boisterous family. They were found guilty at the federal level in June and are set to be convicted by US District Judge Eleanor Ross in a hearing beginning Monday and expected to last through Tuesday.
Using a process to calculate a range of indicative sentences based on multiple factors, prosecutors determined that the high end of that range is nearly 22 years for Todd Chrisley and approximately 12.5 years for Julie Chrisley. The couple should also be sentenced to pay reparations, the public prosecutor wrote in a court document.
“The Chrisleys have built an empire based on the lie that their wealth comes from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote. “The jury’s unanimous verdict clarifies the truth: Todd and Julie Chrisley are professional con artists who have made a living jumping from one fraud scheme to another, lying to banks, lying to salespeople and dodging taxes around every corner.”
The Chrisleys disagree with the government’s benchmark calculations. Todd Chrisley’s attorneys wrote in a filing that he should face no more than nine years in prison and that the judge should sentence him below the lower end of the guidelines. Lawyers for Julie Chrisley wrote that an appropriate 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 employed by the couple, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and willfully making false tax returns. He is to be sentenced along with the Chrisleys.
Prosecutors said the couple filed fake documents with banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. When that plan collapsed, they relinquished their responsibility for paying off the loans when Todd Chrisley filed for bankruptcy. While bankrupt, they launched their reality show and “flawed 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 taxes.
The Chrisleys submitted a false document to a grand jury investigating their crimes, then convinced friends and family members to tell lies while testifying under oath during their trial, prosecutors wrote. None of them showed remorse and instead blamed others for their own criminal behavior, prosecutors wrote.
“The Chrisleys are unique given the diverse and wide-ranging scope of their fraudulent behavior and the extent to which they have engaged in fraudulent and obstructive behavior over an extended period,” prosecutors wrote.
Todd Chrisley’s lawyers wrote in a court filing that the government had never presented any evidence that he intended to defraud one of the banks and that the government’s calculated loss amount was incorrect. They also noted that the crimes for which he was convicted were committed a long time ago. He does not have a serious criminal history and health problems that “would make incarceration disproportionately harsh,” they wrote.
His attorneys submitted letters from friends and business associates that show “a history of good deeds and striving to help others.” People who rely on Chrisley – including his mother and the “numbers of people” employed for his television shows – are being harmed while he is in prison, his attorneys wrote.
They asked the judge to sentence him to less than standard imprisonment, followed by supervised release and reprieve.
Lawyers for Julie Chrisley wrote in a filing that she played only a minimal role in the conspiracy and was not involved in obtaining the loans discussed in the sentencing documents. She has no criminal record, is an asset to her community and has “extraordinary family responsibilities,” her attorneys wrote as they called for a suspended sentence, redress and community service.
The Chrisleys have three children together, including one who is 16, and also have full custody of Todd Chrisley’s son’s 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Julie Chrisley is her ailing mother-in-law’s main carer, the filing says. Her attorneys submitted letters from family and friends, which say she is “hardworking, tirelessly selfless, devoted to her family and friend, well respected by everyone she knows, and strong in character.”
If the judge sentences both Chrisleys to prison, lawyers for Julie Chrisley asked that their sentences be staggered so that she could be released under supervision until her husband has served his sentence or until her granddaughter turns 18.
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