Reality TV Stars Chrisleys Challenge Fraud, Tax Evasion Convictions in Federal Court

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The glitz, fame, and fortune of reality television stars Todd and Julie Chrisley took a hefty hit as the couple found themselves marooned behind bars, serving time for convictions on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion. From the confines of their cells, however, they are now attempting to challenge the veracity of both their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.

Riding high on the success wave of their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” the Chrisleys captivated a large audience with candid narrations of their closely-knit family dynamics. However, the façade was allegedly riddled with white-collar crimes, as prosecutors painted a picture of a formidable bank fraud scheme and charges of evading income tax, the couple having conveniently forgot to report their earnings while ostentatiously flaunting their opulence.

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The Chrisleys had engaged the services of Peter Tarantino, an accountant who now shares their fate in a prison cell, seeking to have his conviction overturned and to be offered a fresh trial.

Friday will see lawyers from both sides, the defense and federal prosecutors, locked in a legal face-off in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, held in Atlanta. The legal rigmarole surrounding the Chrisleys had kicked off in August 2019 when they were first indicted. Fast forward to June 2022, after a fervid trial which culminated in a jury pronouncing them guilty. Charges included hatching a conspiracy to defraud community banks of over $30 million by taking out fraudulent loans. The couple also faced tax evasion charges, and further allegations of defrauding the IRS, with Julie Chrisley also being found guilty of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Today, Todd Chrisley, 56, spends his time in a minimum-security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, projected to embrace freedom again in October 2032. Julie Chrisley, 51, is serving her time at another federal facility in Lexington, Kentucky, hoping for a release in July 2028. Not too far away, in Montgomery, Alabama, Tarantino, 61, is stationed in a similar minimum-security federal prison camp, waiting for his expected release in September of the coming year.

Prosecutors maintained their narrative of the Chrisleys as unscrupulous players, having allegedly submitted fraudulent documents to banks, thereby securing over $30 million in loans. The plot thickened when the said scheme crumbled, leading Todd Chrisley to file for bankruptcy, effectively reneging on his commitment to repay the loans. Amidst the bankruptcy proceedings, the family began their reality show, showcasing their elaborate lifestyle to their viewers, and concurrently hiding their wealthy returns from the IRS.

The defense lawyers for the Chrisleys take a different stance, arguing that an IRS officer provided false testimony, falsely indicating that the couple owed taxes when they were, in fact, in the clear. They also contend that some of the evidence presented had been obtained through illicit searches and that the prosecution had failed to provide conclusive evidence to support the various charges, including tax evasion and conspiracy.

Seeking further judicial redress, lawyers for the Chrisleys argue for acquittal on numerous charges, including bank fraud for Julie Chrisley, with hopes of a new trial on some counts for Todd Chrisley. They alternatively ask the appeal court to remand the case for hearings on allegations of the IRS officer providing false testimony, and the improper introduction of evidence.

Prosecutors maintain their faith in the mountain of evidence presented at the trial. They argue that Julie Chrisley’s $17.2 million restitution, along with other sentencing, should remain intact, countering the appeal to re-sentence her on these counts. They further assert the evidence was legitimately obtained and not prejudiced in nature.

Tarantino’s lawyer, however, maintains that his client was wrongfully tried alongside the Chrisleys, which did not serve his defense well. He insists that while Tarantino facilitated some of the Chrisleys’ actions, there’s no concrete evidence to show that it was done with nefarious intentions. The prosecution counters this, insisting there is ample evidence to demonstrate Tarantino’s personal involvement in the fraudulent dealings. They claim he cannot present compelling proof that his defense case suffered because he was tried alongside the Chrisleys. The strains of this high-stakes legal drama continue to unravel, leaving onlookers awaiting the next move with bated breath.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.