Lawyer says ‘Chrisley Knows Best’ stars have ‘undying faith’ ahead of fraud, tax appeal in Atlanta

Julie and Todd Chrisley

The imprisoned multi-millionaire stars of the “Chrisley Knows Best” reality-TV show appeal their bank fraud and tax evasion convictions Friday in Atlanta.

An attorney for former Atlantans Julie and Todd Chrisley says the couple did not get a fair trial, contending the federal jury which convicted them heard evidence seized illegally from a warehouse without a search warrant, and false testimony about tax debt.

Federal prosecutors contended the Chrisleys used bogus documents to try to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in loans, and then avoided paying taxes on that money and income from their show with bogus or never-filed tax returns.

Peter Tarantino, the couple’s accountant, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the IRS and willfully filing false tax returns. He is also appealing his three-year prison sentence.

Todd is serving 12 years at the Federal Prison Camp Pensacola in Florida; Julie is serving seven years at the Federal Medical Center Lexington in Kentucky. They were convicted and sentenced in 2022, and began serving their time the next year.

One of their attorneys, Jay Surgent, says the upshot of the appeal is how the trial was conducted in Atlanta--but he believes the pair were targeted because of their flash and popularity.

“I think the Chrisleys were indicted because of their show,” Surgent tells WSB. “Not only because they appeared on this reality show, but the show of their wealth.”

The show on USA Network debuted in Atlanta, and relocated to Nashville after three seasons.

The appeal contends that the Government was allowed to use financial information from documents seized in a warrantless search, even though the judge suppressed the actual documents at trial. It says that an IRS agent testified that the Chrisleys still owed federal taxes for several years, but was using outdated data which did not reflect the Chrisleys’ payments. In fact the brief says, the Chrisleys were actually due a refund. Surgent says prosecutors knew that or should have known.

“We are saying that in fact there was prosecutorial misconduct, because it should’ve been admitted to by the Government once they found out that the wrong information was provided,” says Surgent.

The Government counters that they got the information legally in an electronic search with a warrant. Prosecutors also argue that the jury had enough evidence to convict the Todd Chrisley on tax evasion of at least $500,000 in a different year.

The Chrisleys’ lawyers also say the sentencing was far more drastic than it should’ve been, and that Julie was looped into allegations of being part of the conspiracy after the fact and sentenced based on the prosecution’s recommended say-so. She is fighting the amount of the restitution and property forfeiture—more than $17 million--in her sentencing.

Todd Chrisley is seeking acquittal on two tax counts, and a new trial on a half-dozen bank-related charges. Julie Chrisley is seeking to be acquitted on five counts, and resentenced on five.

Alex Little will be making the arguments on behalf of the Chrisleys on Friday. People Magazine reported that Little said earlier this year on a podcast that he is hopeful Julie’s sentence will be reduced a second time because of “errors” in her sentencing. A three-year sentence, Little said, would mean Julie could be released in 2025.

Surgent says although there are never any guarantees, the fact that the Court granted the arguments is a positive sign. He says the Chrisleys are optimistic.

“One hundred percent. Because they feel as though they have viable, clear, straightforward constitutional-violation arguments that they’re making,” he says.

Surgent tells WSB that the Chrisleys are “doing fine,” despite the hardships of living behind bars.

“There’s been a lot of complaints, particularly from Todd with reference to his living conditions, not receiving the mail, not being able to communicate with some of his attorneys, and the food condition there--eating old food and everything,” says Surgent. “But all in all, they’re doing well. They’re holding up.

“They have undying faith in God, their belief in God. A lot of people who are incarcerated with them look up to them as mentors and being strong people. I also believe they have unwavering faith in the legal system that they’re going to prevail on appeal at the 11th Circuit.”

Meanwhile, Savannah Chrisley urged the public via Instagram to join her Friday in Atlanta to hear the oral arguments in person. On her podcast, Chrisley has detailed her parents’ experiences in prison so far and repeatedly appealed to the public for their support.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals at 56 Forsyth Street in Atlanta heard arguments at 9 a.m. Friday.

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