Todd Chrisley at his home.
Photo: USA Network.
On last night’s Chrisley Knows Best, the Chrisley family acted out their usual 1950s television-family shtick by spending the afternoon refiling spice jars in the kitchen. The family patriarch, Todd, barreled in with a big announcement: He was joining a gardening club.
“What do you know about gardening?” his 24-year-old daughter, Savannah, asked.
“Nothing,” his wife, Julie, 49, said.
“I have no desire to be a gardener, but I do have a new real-estate company opening up in the next three weeks, and one of the biggest developers in Nashville is a member of the Garden Society,” Todd, 53, replied.
“Money, money, money!” Todd’s 78-year-old mother, Nanny Faye, chanted, snapping her fingers.
Todd, Julie, and Savannah all laughed. The episode (the premiere episode of the second half of the ninth season of the USA show) was the first new one to air since Todd and Julie’s conviction on federal fraud and tax-evasion charges. The couple are facing 30-year sentences and potentially millions in fines for running an elaborate scheme to defraud the government. No one in the family is laughing anymore.
The Chrisleys broke their silence on the charges on their podcast, Chrisley Confessions, which aired Wednesday, and shared that they are going through a very tough time in their lives. “It’s a very sad, heartbreaking time for our family right now,” Todd said. “We still hold steadfast to our faith, and we trust God will do what he does best, because God is a miracle worker and that’s what we are holding out for.”
“We are alive and kicking,” Julie said. She also thanked fans who have apparently been driving up to eight hours to drop off flowers or meals for them on their Nashville doorstep.
The TV episode, titled “No Basic B*tch,” was filmed before their conviction was handed down and before their grueling three-week trial in which they were both found guilty of “conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million of fraudulent loans” and “conspiring to defraud the IRS.” But with their reality show being picked up for another season, legal experts wonder how this searing taste of actual reality will affect the family’s “reality show.” It’s not just the Chrisley Knows Best show that’s on the line. A month before their guilty verdict, E! Network announced “a trifecta” for the “outrageously charming Southern family,” attaching their names to three shows — E! greenlit a dating series called Love Limo that will be hosted and executive-produced by Todd, and the network picked up a fourth season of Growing Up Chrisley, which focuses on the lives of Savannah and her brother Chase, 26. Chrisley Knows Best was also picked up for a tenth season by USA Network.
Here, everything you need to know about how this close-knit family of scammers/charmers ended up in a situation stickier than molasses.
The Chrisley-family show first aired in 2014 as a reality take on the 1950s sitcom Father Knows Best. Todd, who describes himself as an entrepreneur, was touted as self-made multimillionaire real-estate developer along with his “doting wife Julie, headstrong children Chase, Savannah, and Grayson, adorable granddaughter Chloe, and Todd’s mother, Nanny Faye.” They began sharing their lives with viewers when they lived in Atlanta and continued when the family moved to Nashville in 2019 and upgraded at the time to a $3.4 million mansion. (They put that house on the market two months after pleading not guilty to the federal charges and downsized to a smaller, 11,053-square-foot home.)
“I make millions of dollars a year, but we still have the same issues that parents who are making $40,000 a year have,” Todd said in a 2013 episode of the show, according to court papers.. He further claimed that “in a year, we probably spend over $300,000, sometimes more, just on clothing.”
The family was portrayed as just your regular, down-to-earth millionaires next door. The problem was it wasn’t just guilty-pleasure viewers tuning in each week to see the Chrisleys’ latest antics. Agents from the IRS and the Department of Justice were also watching. After Todd and Julie spent more than $7,000 at an electronics store, $2,000 at a luxury retail store, and thousands of dollars at department and clothing stores, Todd told an IRS officer that he didn’t have money to pay his 2009 tax bill. The agents took notice, according to court papers. IRS officials also realized that Todd failed to file timely tax returns or pay income tax from 2013 through 2016.
None of that sat well with the IRS. Todd and Julie, along with their accountant, were indicted by a grand jury in 2019. The DOJ criminal indictment alleged that despite the fact that Todd and Julie were paid millions of dollars for their appearances on the reality show, they failed to file federal tax returns or submit timely payments to the IRS for four years. It took three years before the Chrisleys were brought to court. After the three-week federal trial, which ended on June 7, they were found guilty of the charges against them and are now facing a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail plus potentially millions in fines.
“The Chrisleys, with the help of their former business partner, submitted false bank statements, audit reports, and personal financial statements to banks to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent loans,” according to a statement released after the trial by the Department of Justice. “The Chrisleys then spent the money on luxury cars, designer clothes, real estate, and travel — and used new fraudulent loans to pay back old ones. After spending all the money, Todd Chrisley filed for bankruptcy and walked away from more than $20 million of the fraudulently obtained loans. “
“These convictions should send a clear message regardless of your fame or notoriety, everyone will be held accountable for paying their fair share of taxes,” James E. Dorsey, special agent in charge, IRS–Criminal Investigation, said in a statement.
An attorney for the Chrisleys said that the couple plan on appealing.
As they await sentencing on October 6, U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross ordered the Chrisleys to be placed under home detention and participate in a location-monitoring program. In addition, they have to alert their probation officer of any purchases over $1,000. Chrisley Knows Best has not yet started production for season ten.
Legal experts said while there is nothing to prevent them from continuing filming, they should be very careful. Their fate is now in the hands of Judge Ross, who will make the decision on how much, if any, time they will spend in federal prison.
“Everything that they say on the show can be used against them by the government,” Los Angeles criminal-defense attorney Troy Slaten said. “The government’s press release already quoted them from radio interviews and from others, and from interviews in the government’s press release. So the government’s listening and watching every single thing that they say. And if, if it’s something that they believe that they can use to get increased punishment, you can bet the government’s gonna do it.”
Staten said Chrisley should try not to do anything that would upset the court before their sentencing.
“If they’re continuing to do the show and if it appears to the court that they’re flaunting ill-gotten gains in some way, that’s not going to bode well for them,” Staten said.
Legal analyst Emily D. Baker said the Chrisleys are also going to need to keep working to show the judge that they are committed to paying back their fines.
“It ends up being a Catch-22; the government’s likely not gonna tell them they can’t record because the government would like to get its fines and fees,” Emily said. “Whether it’s advisable to continue to open themselves up on film, they’re going to have to find a way to make money, to pay whatever restitution. They are going to be ordered to pay because some of the charges they’ve been convicted of carry upwards of, um, a million dollars in fines.”
Flaunting any expensive item could lead to its seizure by the government, Baker said.
“We’ve seen that play out in the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Erika Jayne case as well, where property’s being identified from her, showing it on the show,” Baker said of what is shown on the reality show.
Slaten said he thinks it is unlikely that the Chrisleys will get handed the maximum 30 years, but he does expect them to be sentenced to some time in prison.
“They’re gonna end up getting a certain amount of time,” Troy said. “They can make another reality show when they get out, although they may get out in so many years that they’re no longer relevant and nobody may care.”
Vulture reached out to E! for comment.