Remember the Chrisleys? The flamboyantly wealthy TV couple Todd and Julie Chrisley of Chrisley Knows Best? On Monday, Todd was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Julie to seven years for an assortment of crimes like fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Also tied up in this bonanza of federal charges was the Chrisleys’ accountant Peter Tarantino, who was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of willfully filing false tax returns. Back in May Tarantino’s lawyer tried to argue that his client is, in fact, a complete idiot and slacker and he therefore couldn’t have willfully defrauded the United States as he’s too dumb and lazy to do so. No really, that was the defense:
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.
Note: Mr. Tarantino did eventually pass the CPA exam some time around 2005, he’s been working as an accountant since the 80s.
Unfortunately the “my client is a dipshit, Your Honor” defense didn’t fly in federal court and Tarantino has been sentenced to three years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. He’ll surrender on May 1, 2023 as he is currently recovering from hip surgery and due for another before May.
The DoJ press release does not mince words, the government wanted to send a clear message to any would-be schemers: just don’t, OK?
“Over the course of a decade, the defendants defrauded banks out of tens of millions of dollars while evading payment of their federal income taxes” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Their lengthy sentences reflect the magnitude of their criminal scheme and should serve as a warning to others tempted to exploit our nation’s community banking system for unlawful personal gain.”
“As this sentencing proves, when you lie, cheat, and steal, justice is blind to your fame, fortune, and position,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is proud to work with our law enforcement partners at the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s office to pursue and prosecute individuals that are driven by greed to evade the law.”
Right. The message here is don’t do what these people did. But just in case you’re still considering it even after reading this strong warning, here’s a piece of advice plucked off Twitter: you better charge for it.
Todd Chrisley’s CPA was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison
it was noted that the CPA was not paid anymore than standard rates for preparing false tax returns.
remember: when you’re going to commit fraud for a client, at least charge more*
— Andrea Carr CPA (@andreacpa0) November 22, 2022
According to gossip websites, Tarantino was paid a mere $40,000 by the Chrisleys for his tax work. 36 months in prison at $40,000 is a rate of $1.52/hr. Way, WAY too low. So remember, the next time you consider committing federal crimes for a client, be sure to value your time appropriately. You’re worth it!
Television personalities sentenced to years in federal prison for fraud and tax evasion [Department of Justice]