The reality series "Chrisley Knows Best" first premiered on the USA Network in March 2014. It followed the lives of Georgia real estate professionals Todd Chrisley and his wife, Julie. Filmed in and around Atlanta, the show was an instant hit - after an initial first season of eight episodes, it would go on to run for another eight seasons between its original inception and 2022. Over the course of 197 episodes, it became a ratings hit and positioned the Chrisleys as legitimate professionals in the industry.
That is until they were eventually tried and convicted of federal charges for both bank fraud and tax evasion.
It's true. In November 2022, the Chrisleys finished out a trial that would see them sentenced to 12 years for Todd and seven years for Julie. It was said that over the course of a decade, they had defrauded banks out of tens of millions of dollars. While doing so, they simultaneously evaded paying federal income taxes on the money they were making - including income directly related to their smash hit reality show.
But what happened and why did it take so long to catch them? The answers to questions like those require you to keep a few key things in mind.
The Chrisleys and the Federal Government: The Story So Far
According to United States Attorneys, the original charges that the Chrisleys were brought up on are as follows:
- For 10 years, both Todd and Julie Chrisley knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud community banks in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area.
- They did so successfully, obtaining more than $36 million in personal loans in the process.
- With the assistance of a former business partner, they submitted everything from false audit reports to invalid personal financial statements to the aforementioned community banks to obtain these loans.
- The money was not spent on their business efforts, as it was intended. Instead, they used it to buy fancy cars, high-end clothes, personal real estate, and more. They also used a significant portion of the funds to travel around the world.
- Whenever the balance on one of their old loans would come due, they would simply use the same means to take out a new one to pay it off - thus creating a vicious circle that, it turns out, they would never be able to escape from.
To top it all off, after the money was spent, Todd Chrisley then filed for bankruptcy protection. It is estimated that he ended the decade with more than $20 million from those loans, every penny of which was obtained through fraud.
Keep in mind that this is all while the Chrisleys were also earning millions of dollars from their television show on an annual basis. Lucky for them, they found an accountant willing to work with them to help defraud the IRS to ensure they didn't have to pay any taxes on that money. All money was kept in a bank account that was created only in Julie Chrisley's name, which was then later transferred to a relative.
Unluckily for them, their accountant must not have been very good as he filed nothing for the Chrisleys in the way of tax returns for 2013 through 2016. Make no mistake: if you're a couple on a hit reality television show who is definitely making millions of dollars per year, and you fail to even attempt to pay taxes, the IRS is going to realize this sooner rather than later. If you're simultaneously defrauding community banks out of millions upon millions of more dollars, you really should be more careful.
Even after they were indicted, the Chrisleys were still up to their old ways. Julie in particular continued to submit fraudulent documents to the bank to make it appear like they hadn't been lying about the circumstances under which they were transferring that business bank account to a relative. The grand jury, as it turns out, was less than persuaded.
All told, this is definitely the type of fall from grace that should act as a cautionary tale for just about everyone. It doesn't matter how successful you are in your business, while simultaneously also being a public figure and reality television celebrity - you still have to play by the rules and you especially have to pay your taxes. When the situation gets so bad that even your accountant is sentenced in federal court to three years in prison followed by an additional three years of supervised release, you know that you were probably in over your head.