ATLANTA — Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were sentenced to long prison terms on Monday after being convicted earlier this year on charges including bank fraud and tax evasion.
U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross in Atlanta gave Todd Chrisley 12 years in prison plus 16 months probation, while Julie Chrisley received seven years behind bars and 16 months probation, news outlets reported.
The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show ‘Chrisley Knows Best’, which follows their tight-knit, rambunctious family. Federal prosecutors said the couple was involved in an elaborate bank fraud and then hid their assets from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle.
“The Chrisleys built an empire on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” the prosecutors wrote. “The unanimous verdict of the jury sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career con artists who have made a living jumping from one fraud scheme to the next, lying to banks, defrauding sellers and evading. taxes on every corner.”
Todd Chrisley’s lawyers had argued in a lawsuit that he should not receive more than nine years in prison. Julie Chrisley’s lawyers said a reasonable sentence for her would be probation with special conditions and not 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.
Prosecutors have said the pair submitted false documents to banks and obtained more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once that plan fell apart, they walked away from their responsibility to pay back the loans when Todd Chrisley went bankrupt. While going bankrupt, they started their reality show and “show off their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote, then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS.
The Chrisleys also submitted a false document to a grand jury investigating their crimes and then convinced friends and family members to lie under oath at their trial, prosecutors argued. Neither has shown remorse and instead blamed others for their criminal behavior, prosecutors wrote.
“The Chrisleys are unique given the varied and broad scope of their fraudulent conduct and the extent to which they have engaged in fraud and obstructive conduct over an extended period of time,” prosecutors said.
Todd Chrisley’s lawyers said in a filing that the government never provided any evidence that he intended to defraud the banks and that the loss amount calculated was incorrect. They also noted that the crimes were committed a long time ago and said he has no serious criminal history and medical conditions that would “disproportionately make a prison sentence”.
His lawyers had also submitted letters from friends and business associates showing “a history of good deeds and a desire to help others.” People who rely on Chrisley – including his mother and the many people employed by his television programs – will be harmed while he is in prison, they argued.
They urged the judge to give him a prison sentence under the directive, followed by supervised release and restitution.
Julie Chrisley’s lawyers argued that she played a minimal role in the conspiracy and was not involved in obtaining the loans discussed in the sentencing documents. She has no previous convictions, is an asset to her community and has “extraordinary family obligations,” her lawyers wrote, asking for a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.
The Chrisleys have three children together, including one aged 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 ailing mother-in-law, according to the filing.
Her attorneys also filed letters from character witnesses who described her as “hardworking, unfailingly selfless, devoted to her family and friend, well respected by all who know her, and strong in character.”