‘Chrisley Knows Best’ stars Todd and Julie Chrisley pleaded not guilty to a long list of indictments on Aug. 13, including tax evasion. A lawyer explains why they’re facing time in federal prison.
Todd, 50, and Julie Chrisley, 46, pleaded not guilty on Aug. 13 to a 12-count indictment that included tax evasion, wire fraud and conspiracy bank fraud. The reality television couple’s accountant, Peter Tarantino, was also charged with tax-related offenses, according to the press release that the Northern District of Georgia’s Department of Justice issued. The Chrisley Knows Best couple is maintaining their innocence, but if they’re convicted of the alleged crimes, they could potentially face serious prison time. Criminal & tax Attorney David Wolfe explained EXCLUSIVELY to HollywoodLife why the federal government has charged Todd and Julie with more than just tax evasion and what it means for their potential prison sentences.
“In regards to the income tax evasion, the statutory maximum punishment is five years,” the Atlanta based lawyer told us. “The big problem that [the Chrisleys] are facing is that the feds have added this bogus wire fraud charge. And I don’t mean bogus in just this instance, I think it’s a silly charge to begin with. If I file a fraudulent tax return for income tax evasion and if I email my tax return to the IRS and get prosecuted for a fraudulent tax return, they can charge me with wire fraud, because I submitted it over the wires. It’s just a way for the federal government to make economic charges, which really don’t address the gravity of the offense. They shouldn’t be able to add an offense that quadruples the maximum punishment for the actual crime. It’s a ridiculous way to get more years.”
“Whenever you see the United States of America versus you in an indictment it is a huge deal. But It seems to me that to charge them with all these different types of fraud for the same conduct is over the top. The best example is income tax evasion. Alright, if I didn’t pay all my taxes then I’ve evaded my income tax. But I mailed it in, then I have added mail fraud. If I filed the same fraudulent return but I walked it down to the IRS and handed it to them, that’s neither mail fraud or wire fraud. But if I mailed it in the mail or I wire the money to pay my estimated taxes fraudulently, then I’ve conspired to not only income tax evasion but also mail fraud and wire fraud. And with regard to wire fraud, the statutory maximum penalty is 20 years. So the total is up to 45 years in prison, but the offenses are grouped, they come up with one potential sentence that will cover all of it, they don’t stack up, so there is no way they will ever serve 45 years.
“At the end of the day, what they did, what they’re alleged to have done, is evaded paying taxes, and then they capitalized on the amount of money by getting bank loans, is what it sounds like from what you have shared. But you have to understand that rarely, with the amounts of monies that they’re talking about, in this case that I’ve seen in the news, do you even approach those limits. But it’s still a very big deal. Any time period in federal prison is a very big deal. And, there are rarely probated resolutions (i.e. probation given) in federal criminal cases, so they’re definitely facing jail time (if convicted).”
It should be noted that on Aug. 12, a day before the indictment was handed down, Todd shared a lengthy denial on Instagram. “There’s been a cloud hanging over Julie and me and our entire family for the past seven years. It all started back in 2012, when we discovered that a trusted employee of ours had been stealing from us big time,” the USA Network star began his message. Todd went on to allege that this former employee created “phony documents” and forged signatures before he was fired. “We have nothing to hide,” Todd later added, denying all the accusations in the indictment, and even added that he and Julie have “a ton of hard evidence and a bunch of corroborating witnesses that proves it.”
The Chrisleys’ attorneys, Bruce H. Morris and Stephen M. Friedberg, released a statement that also placed the blame for the alleged crimes on a former employee. “For quite some time now, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has been conducting an investigation of Todd and Julie Chrisley based for the most part on the demonstrably false allegations of a former officer of a company they owned jointly. We saw the results of this effort yesterday—an indictment against Todd, Julie, and their accountant that relies largely if not entirely on emails that we know Todd never sent but rather were fabricated by this former employee.”