ATLANTA -- Todd and Julie Chrisley were driven by greed as they engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle, federal prosecutors said, arguing the reality television stars should receive lengthy prison sentences.
The Chrisleys gained fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which follows their tight-knit, boisterous family. They were found guilty on federal charges in June and are set to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross in a hearing that begins Monday and is likely to extend into Tuesday.
Using a process to calculate a sentencing guideline range based on several factors, federal prosecutors determined the upper end of that range is nearly 22 years for Todd Chrisley and about 12 and a half years for Julie Chrisley. The couple should also be ordered to pay restitution, prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
“The Chrisleys have built an empire based on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote. “The jury's unanimous verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career swindlers who have made a living by jumping from one fraud scheme to another, lying to banks, stiffing vendors, 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 not face more than nine years in prison and that the judge should sentence him below the lower end of the guidelines. Julie Chrisley's lawyers wrote that a reasonable sentence for her would be probation with special conditions and no prison time.
The Chrisleys were convicted in June on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiring 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 filing false tax returns. He is set to be sentenced along with the Chrisleys.
Prosecutors have said the couple submitted fake documents to banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once that scheme fell apart, they walked away from their responsibility to repay the loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While in bankruptcy, they started their reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote. When they began making millions from their show, they hid the money from the IRS to avoid paying taxes.
The Chrisleys submitted a false document to a grand jury that was investigating their crimes and then convinced friends and family members to tell lies while testifying under oath during their trial, prosecutors wrote. Neither of them has shown any remorse and they have, instead, blamed others for their own criminal conduct, prosecutors wrote.
“The Chrisleys are unique given the varied and wide-ranging scope of their fraudulent conduct and the extent to which they engaged in fraud and obstructive behavior for a prolonged period of time,” prosecutors wrote.
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.
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.
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. 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, including one who is 16, 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.”
If the judge does sentence both Chrisleys to prison, Julie Chrisley's lawyers asked that their prison terms be staggered so she can remain on supervised release until her husband is done serving his sentence or until their granddaughter turns 18.