When USA Network began to air “Chrisley Knows Best” five years ago, the official logline wouldn’t have seemed out of the ordinary for a reality series of the familial kind.
“Multimillionaire real estate developer and entrepreneur Todd Chrisley, his wife Julie, and their children are a picture-perfect Southern clan who have everything money can buy,” it reads. “But behind their over-the-top lifestyle lies a real family with real problems and major drama.”
What was once intended to describe things such as the family patriarch’s “unorthodox parenting style,” as Variety deemed it in a review, takes on a whole new meaning these days. The Chrisleys’ drama now involves a federal grand jury indicting Todd, 51, and Julie, 46, on multiple counts of tax evasion and fraud. They maintain their innocence.
There’s a lot more to it than that, of course — including a family spat involving Todd’s daughter Lindsie Chrisley Campbell, who left the show after its fifth season. Let’s break it down.
Who are the Chrisleys?
The show, which just finished airing the first half of its seventh season last month, describes Todd as a “real estate mogul.” He is Faye’s son, Julie’s husband and the father of five children: Lindsie, the eldest, who frequently butted heads with him and is now estranged from the family; Kyle, a recovering addict who recently mended his fractured relationship with Todd; Chase, an athlete considered to be the favorite child; Savannah, a beauty pageant competitor; and Grayson, the youngest. Lindsie and Kyle — who are Todd’s children with his ex-wife, Teresa Terry — each have a child of their own. Todd and Julie took in Kyle’s daughter, Chloe, as he focused on bettering his health. Chase and Savannah have a spinoff series called “Growing Up Chrisley,” set in Los Angeles.
If we were to quote Wikipedia — a cardinal sin, yes, but too good not to share in this case — we would also tell you that Todd, who can “sometimes get quite angry, especially at his son Chase,” is also “a germaphobe who tries to avoid things like dirt and animals.” The site says Julie “enjoys cooking.”
The Chrisleys moved from Georgia to Tennessee a few years ago. In May, Southern Living published a feature on their sprawling mansion in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville. Julie bought the 11,000-square-foot property in early April for nearly $3.38 million, according to Realtor.com.
Why were Todd and Julie indicted?
Public questioning of the Chrisleys’ finances predates news of the official indictment, as evidenced by this Atlanta Journal-Constitution headline from February 2017: “Todd Chrisley may now live in Nashville but WSB-TV questions nonpayment of Georgia taxes.” A story published in March 2014, the month their reality series premiered, introduced Todd as “a perfectionist with skeletons in his closet.”
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Georgia announced Tuesday that a federal grand jury had indicted Todd and Julie on 12 counts of bank and wire fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy. The charges concern a period lasting from roughly 2007 to 2012, during which prosecutors allege the Chrisleys provided banks with falsified bank and financial statements to secure multimillion-dollar loans. The indictment also alleges that the Chrisleys sent fabricated documents to a property owner to rent a California home, and that they missed several deadlines for paying income taxes and filing returns.
“Celebrities face the same justice that everyone does,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in a statement. “These are serious federal charges and they will have their day in court.”
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Todd and Julie had pleaded not guilty and were released on a $100,000 unsecured bond.
Was anyone else involved?
The indictment also lists the Chrisleys’ accountant, Peter Tarantino, as having been charged on tax-related offenses. In addition to hiding income and lying to third parties about tax returns, Tarantino allegedly lied to FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents about the Chrisleys’ finances.
Have the Chrisleys commented on this at all?
Todd posted a lengthy statement to Instagram ahead of the indictment Tuesday, blaming a former employee for instigating the impending legal fiasco. He stated that there had been “a cloud hanging over Julie and me and our entire family for the past seven years,” and that a “trusted employee” had been stealing from them, creating fake documents and forging their signatures, in addition to bugging their home. That employee took the documents to the U.S. attorney’s office, Todd alleged, and “told them we had committed all kinds of financial crimes, like tax evasion and bank fraud.”
The Chrisleys informed officials of what they believed the employee had done, Todd continued, and so the case was closed — that is, until the employee “persuaded” other people at the U.S. attorney’s office to reopen it, leading to Tuesday’s indictment news.
“Not only do we know we’ve done nothing wrong,” Todd wrote, “but we’ve got a ton of hard evidence and a bunch of corroborating witnesses that proves it. … We know that if and when this goes to court, the truth will prevail and the charges against us will be exposed for the outrageous lies they are.”
Noticeably absent from the photo accompanying the statement, which Todd signed off with “We covet your prayers,” are Lindsie and Kyle. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Kyle wrote that his claims from a 2017 interview on “Good Morning America” — during which he said Todd had bragged about not having to pay taxes — were “LIES” and influenced by his drug use. Kyle also accused Lindsie and their biological mother, Teresa, of speaking to authorities about Todd and Julie.
What was that about Lindsie?
Lindsie is said to have left “Chrisley Knows Best” after fighting with her father, who hasn’t been the most supportive of her on-and-off marriage, or of how she chooses to parent her young son, Jackson. Her lawyer, Musa Ghanayem, has not yet returned The Washington Post’s request for comment on Kyle’s claim that his sister turned their father in.
In a statement to “Entertainment Tonight,” Ghanayem denied Lindsie’s involvement in the indictment.
“Lindsie has been a constant target of lies, harassment and threats from her family and as a result, has been distancing herself from the Chrisley family since 2017,” the statement read. “Lindsie is currently processing the events that have unfolded. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and pray for a just resolution.”