Reality TV’s Julie Chrisley must be resentenced in bank fraud, tax evasion case, appeals judges rule

ATLANTA (AP) — Reality TV star Julie Chrisley’s sentence for bank fraud and tax evasion was thrown out Friday by federal appeals judges, who ordered a lower court to redo her punishment over what the appellate panel called a “narrow issue.”

Julie Chrisley and her husband, Todd Chrisley, who earned fame for the show “Chrisley Knows Best” that chronicled the exploits of their tight-knit family, were convicted in 2022 of conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. The Chrisleys were also found guilty of tax evasion by hiding their earnings while showcasing an extravagant lifestyle.

The couple’s accountant, Peter Tarantino, stood trial with them and was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willfully filing false tax returns.

A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the Chrisleys and Tarantino in a ruling that found a legal error only in how the trial judge calculated Julie Chrisley’s sentence by holding her accountable for the entire bank fraud scheme. So the appellate panel sent her case back to the lower court for re-sentencing.

“We’re pleased that the Court agreed that Julie’s sentence was improper, but we’re obviously disappointed that it rejected Todd’s appeal,” Alex Little, an attorney for the couple, said in an email message. He added that the Chrisley family was “hopeful for more good news in the future.”

Before the Chrisleys became reality television stars, they and a former business partner submitted false documents to banks in the Atlanta area to obtain fraudulent loans, prosecutors said during the trial. They accused the couple of spending lavishly on luxury cars, designer clothes, real estate and travel, and using new fraudulent loans to pay off old ones. Todd Chrisley then filed for bankruptcy, according to prosecutors, walking away from more than $20 million in unpaid loans.

Julie Chrisley was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, and Todd Chrisley got 12 years behind bars. The couple was also ordered to pay $17.8 million in restitution.

Their defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully on appeal that at an IRS officer lied at the trial when he testified about the couple still owing taxes and that prosecutors knowingly failed to correct that false testimony. They also asserted that prosecutors failed to show enough evidence to convict the Chrisleys of tax evasion and conspiracy, or that Julie Chrisley participated in bank fraud.

Tarantino’s lawyer argued that the accountant was harmed by being tried with the Chrisleys. His request for a new trial was denied.

The appellate judges found only one error with the case. They ruled that the trial judge at sentencing held Julie Chrisley responsible for the entire bank fraud scheme starting in 2006. The panel ruled neither prosecutors nor the trial judge cited “any specific evidence showing she was involved in 2006.”

The panel found sufficient evidence tying her to fraud from multiple years starting in 2007.

“We must vacate Julie’s sentence so the district court can address the narrow issue of what the proper loss amount attributable to Julie is” so that her sentence can be re-calculated, the appeals panel wrote.

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

Tarantino, 61, s being held in a minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, with a release date in August of next year.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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