Jailed reality stars Todd and Julie Chrisley appeal fraud convictions as children say family is ‘closer than ever’

Todd Chrisley will be released in 2032 while wife, Julie’s release date is 2028

Kate Brumback
Friday 19 April 2024 18:40 BST
Related video: Todd Chrisley Must Pay $755K After Losing Defamation Lawsuit

The children of Todd and Julie Chrisley, reality TV stars jailed for bank fraud and tax evasion, hope that a new appeal will bring their parents home.

Savannah and Chase, two of the Chrisleys’ children, led a group of supporters to the gallery of the 1th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday as their hearing got underway.

Savannah Chrisley told reporters after the hearing that she had spoken to her parents on Thursday night. She said that they are “doing as best as they can” and said she hoped they were closer now to being freed.

“We have all come together and we are closer than ever,” she said.

Todd Chrisley, left, and his wife, Julie Chrisley, pose for photos at the 52nd annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 2, 2017
Todd Chrisley, left, and his wife, Julie Chrisley, pose for photos at the 52nd annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 2, 2017 (2017 Invision)

The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which chronicled the exploits of their tight-knit family. But prosecutors said they engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and hid their earnings from tax authorities while showcasing their extravagant lifestyle.

Peter Tarantino, an accountant they hired, also is serving time in prison. He wants his conviction thrown out and to be granted a new trial.

Lawyers for all three, as well as federal prosecutors, are set to appear for arguments before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Friday.

The Chrisleys initially were charged in August 2019. In June 2022, a jury found them guilty of conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. They also were found guilty of tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS, and Julie Chrisley was convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Savannah Chrisley speaking with reporters after her parent’s appeal hearing in Atlanta, Georgia
Savannah Chrisley speaking with reporters after her parent’s appeal hearing in Atlanta, Georgia (screengrab/WSB-TV)

Todd Chrisley, 56, is housed at a minimum security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, with a release date in October 2032, while Julie Chrisley, 51, is at a facility in Lexington, Kentucky, with a release date in July 2028, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Tarantino, 61, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willfully filing false tax returns. He is being held in a minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, with a release date in September of next year.

Prosecutors have said the Chrisleys submitted fake documents to banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once that scheme fell apart, they walked away from their responsibility to repay the loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While in bankruptcy, they started their reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” and then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS, prosecutors said.

Lawyers for the Chrisleys contend that an IRS officer lied on the stand about the couple owing taxes for years when she knew no taxes were due and that prosecutors knowingly presented and failed to correct that false testimony.

They also argue the trial judge was wrong to allow certain evidence without requiring prosecutors to show it wasn't obtained during an unlawful search. And they say prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to convict the Chrisleys of tax evasion and conspiracy, showing only that they used a common entertainment industry practice to receive acting income.

They also argue prosecutors failed to produce any evidence that Julie Chrisley participated in bank fraud. They say the judge erred by ordering restitution and forfeiture of assets.

Todd Chrisley should be acquitted on the tax evasion and conspiracy counts and given a new trial on the remaining counts, his lawyers argue. Alternatively, the appeals court should send the case back to the trial court to hold a hearing on his claims that the IRS officer lied and evidence was improperly admitted.

Julie Chrisley should be acquitted on the five bank fraud charges, her lawyers argue. They also say her sentence on the remaining charges, including $17.2 million in restitution that she and her husband were ordered to pay, should be wiped away and she should be resentenced on those counts.

Prosecutors argue there was sufficient evidence at trial to support the charges and jury verdicts, and that the evidence was properly obtained and admitted. They said the judge was right to deny an evidentiary hearing or new trial on the Chrisleys’ assertions that the IRS agent lied, saying the agent testified to the best of her recollection.

A lawyer for Tarantino argued in a filing with the appeals court that his client was harmed by being tried with the Chrisleys and he urged the court to reverse Tarantino’s conviction and return his case to the lower court for a new trial.

While Tarantino did certain things that ended up facilitating the Chrisleys' fraudulent conduct, there was no evidence he did anything intentionally to facilitate that conduct. Jurors ended up confused and biased, which caused them to convict all three defendants on all counts they faced, his lawyer wrote.

Prosecutors say there was substantial evidence demonstrating Tarantino's personal involvement and he can't demonstrate actual, compelling evidence that he was harmed by being tried along with the Chrisleys.

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