Reality TV stars on trial for tax evasion and financial fraud

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The feds are going hard on reality stars Todd and Julie Chrisley, accusing them of defrauding millions of banks using forged documents and then active tax evasion.

“They’re making up documents and living as if they can seek out and get whatever they want, whenever they want,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Annalese Peters said during opening statements in the government’s jury trial on Tuesday. against the stars of “Chrisley Knows Best”. Both men face charges of bank fraud and tax evasion. The trial, held at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building and the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, is expected to last several weeks.

Peters alleged that the Chrisleys “scammed” at least $30 million from community banks by inflating their net worth to obtain loans, deliberately targeting smaller banks that did less due diligence than larger ones. Then Todd Chrisley filed for bankruptcy in 2012, erasing $20 million in debt. Peters alleged that they then actively hid the millions they made from the reality show, which debuted in 2014, as well as $500,000 in taxes owed by Todd in 2009.

7C’s Productions, a company the Chrisleys started after the reality show debuted, was entirely under Julie’s name, Peters said, so the IRS couldn’t access revenue to reduce the $500,000 that Todd owed from 2009.

Todd Chrisley, 53, sat with his lawyers, shook his head several times as Peters spoke and avoided looking at her. Julie, 49, sat behind her husband, showing no expression.

The alleged bank fraud occurred between 2007 and 2012, according to the federal government’s original indictment in 2019. It said they had actively evaded taxes since 2009.

The Chrisleys lived in metro Atlanta for most of the alleged illegal activity, but moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2016.

Bruce H. Morris, an attorney representing Todd Chrisley, said in his opening statement that the Chrisleys were victims of a man named Mark Braddock, who ran his company, Chrisley Asset Management, and committed all the frauds at the unbeknownst to the couple until they saw him. in 2012.

Braddock then went to the U.S. attorney’s office and received federal immunity in exchange for evidence against the Chrisleys, he said.

Morris portrayed Braddock as an untrustworthy opportunist who took advantage of a naively confident Todd. Todd, he noted, hadn’t even graduated from high school and was quietly flipping houses one by one until Braddock helped him win clients like Fannie Mae and rake in millions. . Braddock, he said, then set up a secret fund and stole money from Chrisley Asset Management. Chrisley, in a 2019 Instagram post, said Braddock also tapped their phones and threatened other employees with violence if they spoke about his actions.

“He wanted to be like Todd,” Morris said. “He took over Todd’s business. He forged Todd’s signature on numerous documents. He pretended to be Todd and used his personal passwords.

Stephen Friedberg, who represents Julie, Todd’s wife, said she was also unaware of anything Braddock was doing with their money. “Julie never dealt with a bank or bank agent for any of the transactions,” he said.

She was also charged with “electronic fraud” for sending false bank statements and a credit report to rent a house in California for $13,000 a month in 2014. Friedberg said a former employee was responsible for those documents and that Julie did not know it. . He also said a later charge of ‘obstructing justice’ was just an ‘honest mistake’ which she actively tried to fix.

Both Friedberg and Morris said the Chrisleys had made good faith efforts to reduce their tax burden and had in fact refunded some of it over time. They also said the production company they started wasn’t a way to hide taxes, but something ‘Chrisley Knows Best’ producers Maverick TV and All3Media America asked them to do after they started. to record the TV show.

Given the complexity of the case, the trial could last three to four weeks.

The State of Georgia also investigated possible tax evasion against the Chrisleys. In 2019, a state judge cleared the couple of the charges, and the Chrisleys settled the case for just under $150,000.

In a statement at the time, Todd said: “Julie and I knew from the start that we had done nothing wrong and that when all the facts were out we would be fine. We are just happy that the Department of Revenu was willing to keep an open mind and review all the evidence.

“Chrisley Knows Best,” a comedic look at the life of the Chrisley family that Julie Christy’s attorney Friedberg says is a mix of scripted and unscripted scenes, was an instant hit for USA Network when it debuted. in 2014 and was recently renewed for a 10th season. A ! The “Growing Up Chrisley” spin-off, featuring Chrisley’s two children, Chase and Savannah, living in Los Angeles, has just been renewed for a fourth season. Chase and Savannah were in the courtroom to support their parents on Tuesday.

E! also recently announced a new dating show “Love Limo,” hosted by Todd Chrisley.

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©2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Go to ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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