Todd and Julie Chrisley sentenced to federal prison in tax evasion case

Alpharetta accountant also sentenced to prison in case

Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were sentenced to prison in federal court Monday.

U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross sentenced Todd Chrisley to 12 years in prison followed by three years of supervised released, while Julie Chrisley was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of supervised released.

The “Chrisley Knows Best” couple was found guilty on all counts of bank fraud and tax evasion by a federal jury in June. The Chrisleys are also ordered to pay restitution that will be determined at a later date. The couple has until Jan. 15, 2023 to report to prison.

In a statement, Todd and Julie Chrisley’s attorney Alex Little said they plan to file an appeal in the coming weeks.

“Yesterday was a difficult day for the Chrisley family. But Todd and Julie are people of faith, and that faith gives them strength as they appeal their convictions. Their trial was marred by serious and repeated errors, including the government lying to jurors about what taxes the couple paid. Based on these issues, we are optimistic about the road ahead,” Little said.

Peter Tarantino, the couple’s accountant, was sentenced to three years in prison and will surrender May 1 after hip surgery, Insider reported. Tarantino was convicted in June for conspiracy to defraud the IRS and two counts of willfully filing false tax returns.

ExploreReality stars Todd, Julie Chrisley guilty on all counts in federal tax evasion trial

The couple filed a joint motion for a new trial in August, arguing prosecutors had knowingly used perjured testimony from an IRS revenue officer, failed to disclose materially exculpatory evidence and improperly denied their belated motion to suppress evidence as untimely.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

On Oct. 3, prosecutors filed a motion asking the court to deny the Chrisleys’ motion for a new trial. Sentencing was originally set for that week on Oct. 6 in federal court but was rescheduled for Nov. 21.

According to a sentencing memorandum obtained last week by Channel 2 Action News, Todd Chrisley faced between 17 and 22 years in prison, and Julie Chrisley faced 10 to 13 years. The document asked for more than $17 million to be paid in restitution.

“As today’s outcome shows, when you lie, cheat and steal, justice is blind as to your fame, your fortune and your position,” said Keri Farley, special agent of FBI Atlanta, in a statement released from the U.S. Attorney’s Office following the guilty verdict. “In the end, when driven by greed, the verdict of guilty on all counts for these three defendants proves once again that financial crimes do not pay.”

ExploreTodd and Julie Chrisley to be sentenced this week in tax evasion case

Through their attorneys, the couple released a statement following the verdict expressing disappointment and that an appeal was planned.

Prosecutors argued the Chrisleys deliberately “swindled” more than $36 million from Atlanta community banks from 2007 to 2012 by inflating their net worth to get loans, purposely targeting smaller banks that did less due diligence than larger ones, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Todd Chrisley later filed for bankruptcy in 2012, erasing $20 million in loan debt.

Prosecutors also alleged the couple actively hid millions they made from their reality show, which began in 2014, as well as $500,000 in taxes Todd Chrisley owed in 2009. The couple are alleged to have actively evaded taxes going back to 2009, the AJC reported.

At the time of most of the alleged illegal activity, the Chrisleys were living in metro Atlanta before moving to Nashville in 2016.

An attorney representing Todd Chrisley argued in his opening statement that the couple were actually victims of Mark Braddock, who oversaw Chrisley Asset Management and did all the defrauding without the couple’s knowledge until he was fired in 2012. Braddock received federal immunity from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in exchange for evidence against the Chrisleys, the attorney said.

The Chrisleys were free on bond but were placed on location monitoring and home detention while they awaited sentencing.

The couple’s 16-year-old son, Grayson Chrisley, was taken to the hospital this month after being involved in a car accident, Channel 2 reported. He was driving northbound on I-65 when he hit a car that was stopped in the traffic lane, the Metro Nashville Police Department said.

Three shows involving the Chrisley family have been cancelled, Deadline reported. The reality show, a sitcom-style series featuring the family, had been renewed for a 10th season before the couple was convicted and USA Network plans to air footage taped before the trial next season.

ExploreWhat becomes of ‘Chrisley Knows Best’ now that Todd and Julie Chrisley have been sentenced?

A dating spin-off show, “Love Limo” hosted by Todd Chrisley and a reality show, “Growing Up Chrisley” following the couple’s children Chase and Savannah, have also been cancelled, Deadline reported.

In asking for a lighter sentence than prosecutors recommended, Todd Chrisley’s lawyers wrote in a court filing that the government never produced any evidence that he meant to defraud any of the banks and that the loss amount calculated by the government is incorrect. They also noted that the offenses of which he was convicted were committed a long time ago. He has no serious criminal history and has medical conditions that “would make imprisonment disproportionately harsh,” they wrote.

The Associated Press reported that his lawyers 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 “scores of people” employed by his television shows — will be harmed while he’s in prison, his lawyers wrote.

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

“The Chrisleys defrauded financial institutions and the Federal Government through tax evasion and other fraudulent means in an effort to minimize their tax liability, but project an image of wealth,” James E. Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office, said following the sentencing. “This sentencing serves notice that no matter a person’s celebrity status, there are severe consequences for defrauding the American tax system.”

Julie Chrisley’s lawyers wrote in a filing that she had a minimal role in the conspiracy and was not involved when the loans discussed in sentencing documents were obtained, according to The Associated Press. She has no prior convictions, is an asset to her community and has “extraordinary family obligations,” her lawyers wrote, as they asked for a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.

The Chrisleys have three children together and also have full custody of the 10-year-old daughter of Todd Chrisley’s son from a prior marriage. Julie Chrisley is the primary caregiver to her ailing mother-in-law, the filing says. Her lawyers submitted letters from family and friends that show she is “hard-working, unfailingly selfless, devoted to her family and friend, highly respected by all who know her, and strong of character.”

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who now runs West Coast Trial Lawyers in Los Angeles and has closely followed the case, said he was not surprised by the judge’s ruling.

“The Chrisleys provided fake documents to the grand jury before trial and asked witnesses to perjure themselves,” he said. “And even after they were convicted, they didn’t accept any responsibility and blamed others on social media.”

He compared the sentences to the recent one given to Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of failed blood-testing start-up Theranos, who received more than 11 years in federal prison for defrauding investors using false claims. And because the Chrisleys wanted to reserve the right to appeal, they “gave the judge no reason to be lenient.”

— Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Rodney Ho contributed to this article.