May 27th, 2024

Reality TV’s Chrisleys are appealing their bank fraud and tax evasion convictions in federal court

By Kate Brumback, The Associated Press on April 18, 2024.

FILE - 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. Todd and Julie Chrisley, who are in prison after being convicted on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, are challenging aspects of their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

ATLANTA (AP) – Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley, who are in prison after being convicted on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, are challenging aspects of their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.

The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which chronicled the exploits of their tight-knit family. But prosecutors said they engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and hid their earnings from tax authorities while showcasing their extravagant lifestyle.

Peter Tarantino, an accountant they hired, also is serving time in prison. He wants his conviction thrown out and to be granted a new trial.

Lawyers for all three, as well as federal prosecutors, are set to appear for arguments before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Friday.

The Chrisleys initially were charged in August 2019. In June 2022, a jury found them guilty of conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. They also were found guilty of tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS, and Julie Chrisley was convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Todd Chrisley, 56, is housed at a minimum security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, with a release date in October 2032, while Julie Chrisley, 51, is at a facility in Lexington, Kentucky, with a release date in July 2028, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Tarantino, 61, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willfully filing false tax returns. He is being held in a minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, with a release date in September of next year.

Prosecutors have said the Chrisleys 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,” and then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS, prosecutors said.

Lawyers for the Chrisleys contend that an IRS officer lied on the stand about the couple owing taxes for years when she knew no taxes were due and that prosecutors knowingly presented and failed to correct that false testimony.

They also argue the trial judge was wrong to allow certain evidence without requiring prosecutors to show it wasn’t obtained during an unlawful search. And they say prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to convict the Chrisleys of tax evasion and conspiracy, showing only that they used a common entertainment industry practice to receive acting income.

They also argue prosecutors failed to produce any evidence that Julie Chrisley participated in bank fraud. They say the judge erred by ordering restitution and forfeiture of assets.

Todd Chrisley should be acquitted on the tax evasion and conspiracy counts and given a new trial on the remaining counts, his lawyers argue. Alternatively, the appeals court should send the case back to the trial court to hold a hearing on his claims that the IRS officer lied and evidence was improperly admitted.

Julie Chrisley should be acquitted on the five bank fraud charges, her lawyers argue. They also say her sentence on the remaining charges, including $17.2 million in restitution that she and her husband were ordered to pay, should be wiped away and she should be resentenced on those counts.

Prosecutors argue there was sufficient evidence at trial to support the charges and jury verdicts, and that the evidence was properly obtained and admitted. They said the judge was right to deny an evidentiary hearing or new trial on the Chrisleys’ assertions that the IRS agent lied, saying the agent testified to the best of her recollection.

A lawyer for Tarantino argued in a filing with the appeals court that his client was harmed by being tried with the Chrisleys and he urged the court to reverse Tarantino’s conviction and return his case to the lower court for a new trial.

While Tarantino did certain things that ended up facilitating the Chrisleys’ fraudulent conduct, there was no evidence he did anything intentionally to facilitate that conduct. Jurors ended up confused and biased, which caused them to convict all three defendants on all counts they faced, his lawyer wrote.

Prosecutors say there was substantial evidence demonstrating Tarantino’s personal involvement and he can’t demonstrate actual, compelling evidence that he was harmed by being tried along with the Chrisleys.

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