Todd and Julie Chrisley lived extravagantly on $30 million in loans they lied 'through their teeth' to get: Feds
Reality TV couple Julie and Todd Chrisley are on trial for bank fraud and tax evasion in Atlanta.
Prosecutors said they "burned through" money on a lifestyle outside their budget.
Their lawyer said the fraud was committed by a former employee who reported the couple to the FBI.
Todd and Julie Chrisley lived an extravagant, reality-TV-worthy lifestyle that was built on lies, according to prosecutors.
In her opening statement on Tuesday, Assistant US Attorney Annalise Peters said that the couple — best known for their USA Network reality series "Chrisley Knows Best" — submitted fake documents exaggerating their wealth to banks to borrow more than $30 million that they "burned" on luxury items while also hiding money from the IRS.
"They made up documents and they lie through their teeth to get whatever they want, whenever they want it," Peters told the jury.
On Tuesdsay, Todd Chrisley and his wife, Julie, sat in a 17th-floor Atlanta federal courtroom, where they are on trial for bank fraud and tax evasion. Two of their children, Savannah and Chase Chrisley, were also in the courtroom Tuesday.
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Julie Chrisley was also charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice on accusations that she inflated her income to rent a $13,000-a-month California home that she didn't pay the rent on and manipulated documents provided during the federal investigation.
The Chrisley's accountant, Peter Tarantino, is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of willfully filing false tax returns.
The Chrisleys have denied all the charges, and their lawyer has blamed all bank fraud and tax evasion on a former employee, Mark Braddock, who eventually turned in the couple to the FBI.
Todd Chrisley's attorney, Bruce H. Morris, said in his opening statement that Braddock committed the fraud — while impersonating Todd Chrisley — without the couple's knowledge, and then turned on them when he was fired in 2012.
Braddock was "obsessed" with Todd Chrisley and "wanted to be" him, buying homes and furniture to live a lifestyle that mimicked his, Morris said.
An attorney for Tarantino said that his client was an accountant who failed the CPA exam many times over 20 years and was unqualified to handle the Chrisleys' finances. Tarantino is a procrastinator who was "in over his head" but not a criminal, his attorney said.
Peters said in her opening that Braddock was a "fraudster." He was offered immunity for his participation and admitted to his crimes, as well as the specific instances of fraud committed by the couple, which was then backed up with other evidence.
But the couple continued to commit fraud, Peters said, even after they cut all ties with Braddock.
"They were dead to each other," she said of Braddock and the Chrisleys.
One goal: 'Hide the money'
Todd Chrisley initially made his money by buying homes, fixing them up, decorating them, and selling them for a profit, Peters said.
And for a while, he was successful at that.
From 2007 to 2012, the business was doing well, but the couple was spending more than they were making, Peters said.
They "burned through" money on luxury cars, designer clothes, and a lifestyle outside their budget, she said.
To get even more, the couple, and Braddock, began a scheme they called "scrapbooking," which involved piecing together parts of various documents when applying for personal loans to make it look like they had more money than they did.
They "targeted" over a dozen community banks with their schemes, believing those smaller branches would be less scrupulous, Peters said.
In one case, a statement appeared to show that Todd Chrisley had $4 million in an account, when he never had more than $20,000 in that account.
They used new loans to make payments on old loans, until they could no longer get more loans, she said.
When that happened, Todd Chrisley claimed bankruptcy in 2012 — walking away from $20 million in unpaid loans and putting a hold on the collection of $500,000 he owed on his 2009 taxes, Peters said.
Not long after, the couple got their reality-show deal.
From 2013 to 2016, the couple made $6 million from "Chrisley Knows Best," a reality show which chronicled the extravagant lifestyle of the couple and their children.
They attempted to hide the money by opening a side company, 7C's Production, and had paychecks deposited there, Peters said.
Julie Chrisley was the president of that company until March 7, 2017 — a day after she learned that the FBI was investigating them. After the family had moved from Atlanta to Nashville, Julie Chrisley went to a local Bank of America branch and put 7C's Production in Todd Chrisley's mother's name.
"All along, the goal was to hide the money," Peters said.
On Tuesday, prosecutors called three witnesses: a talent manager who helped the Chrisley family get social-media endorsement deals, a Nashville Bank of America supervisor who was familiar Julie Chrisley and the 7C's account, and an IRS investigator.
The trial, which will continue Wednesday, is expected to last four weeks.
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