ATLANTA — Reality television stars Todd and Julie Chrisley pleaded not guilty Wednesday to tax evasion and other federal charges that their lawyers said stemmed from false allegations made by a former employee.
The "Chrisley Knows Best" stars entered the pleas during their initial court appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Atlanta. The judge agreed to release them on $100,000 unsecured bond, which means they don't have to pay anything unless they fail to show up for court dates.
The judge ordered them to surrender their passports and said they're not allowed to travel outside of parts of Georgia and Tennessee without letting their probation officers know where they will be. Their lawyers had asked for travel permission so they can continue filming.
A 12-count federal indictment filed Tuesday accuses the Chrisleys of tax evasion, conspiracy, bank fraud and wire fraud.
"You know we stand in our faith and we stand for what we know is right," Todd Chrisley told reporters as they left the courthouse. "You know our family will stick together, walk this rope because we know God will take our hand and take us through."
"Chrisley Knows Best" follows the tightknit, boisterous family living in Nashville. Much of the series emphasizes Todd Chrisley's obsessive yet comedic efforts to keep tabs on three of his kids, two of whom are in their 20s, and his mother.
The series has aired on USA for seven seasons and recently premiered a spinoff called "Growing Up Chrisley," featuring his kids Chase and Savannah, who move to Los Angeles. Todd Chrisley also briefly hosted a talk show, "According to Chrisley," for the network. Todd, 51, and Julie Chrisley, 46, also have a podcast called "Chrisley Confessions."
The family moved to Tennessee a few years ago, but the criminal charges stem from when they lived in Atlanta's northern suburbs, U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak said.
The indictment accuses the Chrisleys of submitting fake bank and financial statements to financial institutions to get loans. They're also accused of sending fabricated financial documents to a California property owner to rent a home there. And they used a company they'd created called 7C's Productions to hide their television show earnings from the IRS and failed to file and pay taxes on time, the indictment says.
Accountant Peter Tarantino was accused in the indictment of helping the Chrisleys hide income and lie about their tax returns. A woman who answered the phone at his office outside Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon said Tarantino would have no comment.
Todd Chrisley said in an Instagram post on Monday, before the charges were announced, that he and his wife had done nothing wrong. After they discovered an employee was stealing from them in 2012 and fired him and sued him, the employee retaliated by bringing phony documents to federal prosecutors and telling them the Chrisleys had committed financial crimes, Chrisley wrote.
Pak said Tuesday that he was aware of Chrisley's post, but he said Chrisley instructed the former employee to create false documents.
According to the indictment, Todd Chrisley told the employee in 2008 to send updated financial information to a bank. When the employee said he didn't have the financials, the indictment says, Chrisley wrote, "stop telling me this (expletive), create them like you always have."
When another bank asked for updated financial information and the employee said he needed help putting the requested information together, Chrisley wrote, "if you do not know how to do this then find a crooked accountant to do it. Ask (redacted) who her guy uses for his crooked (expletive)," according to the indictment.
In an emailed statement, Chrisley lawyers Bruce H. Morris and Stephen M. Friedberg reiterated Chrisley's assertions that the charges stem from the actions of a former employee seeking revenge. The indictment "relies largely if not entirely on emails that we know Todd never sent but rather were fabricated by this former employee," the lawyers wrote.
Prosecutors have now granted the former employee immunity from prosecution and used his false allegations to bring an indictment, Morris and Friedberg wrote.
"We have no doubt that if this case ever reaches a courtroom, Todd and Julie will be completely exonerated," they wrote. "But in the meantime, their reputation will be sullied by a shamefully unjustified prosecution based on testimony of a dishonest source who has somehow managed to successfully mislead prosecutors."
In acknowledging Chrisley's online comments, Pak said Tuesday that the falsification of documents and other crimes continued beyond 2012, after the Chrisleys parted ways with the former employee.
Pak said his office intends to seek prison time for the Chrisleys.