More and more celebrities are being charged, convicted and imprisoned for various white-collar crimes. While nonviolent, such crimes are still serious and can include offenses such as fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement, bribery, counterfeiting and theft.
Award-winning for its white-collar criminal defense work, Houston’s Neal Davis Law Firm provides this list of some high-profile cases of famous people sentenced to prison for white-collar crimes.
1/2: Todd and Julie Chrisley of the reality TV series Chrisley Knows Best
The stars of the long-running reality TV series Chrisley Knows Best on the USA Network were sentenced to prison on November 21, 2022. They’d been convicted in June of bank fraud and tax evasion.
Georgia real estate tycoon Todd Chrisley, 54, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while his wife, Julie Chrisley, 49, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for her involvement. Both face 3 years of supervised release, or probation, after prison.
Though they are expected to appeal, the couple must report to prison at the start of 2023. Legal experts say an appeal is unlikely to succeed, and they’ll probably serve at least 85 percent of their sentences since federal white-collar crime laws allow only a slight reduction in sentences for good behavior.
However, they are expected to serve in low-level security prisons due to their lack of previous criminal history and low risk of violence.
According to People magazine, the couple faked audits, bank statements and their personal finances to acquire $36 million in loans. The fraudulent loans were then used to pay back old loans and enhance their extravagant lifestyle, including luxury cars, designer clothes and travel.
Their TV series, including spin-offs Growing Up Chrisley and Love Limo, have reportedly been canceled. However, several episodes of the 10th season of Chrisley Knows Best have already been produced and are expected to air in 2023.
The simple answer is yes. Learn why federal authorities are cracking down on white-collar crimes and what you should do if you’re accused of a crime in Texas.
3: Home decor mogul Martha Stewart
In late 2004, famed businesswoman, TV personality and home decorating guru Martha Stewart began serving 5 months at a West Virginia federal prison camp for women nicknamed “Camp Cupcake.” She then served another 5 months with electronic monitoring at her home in Bedford, New York, as part of her 2 years of supervised release.
Stewart appealed her convictions while serving that time, but her appeal was unsuccessful. In addition, she paid a fine of $30,000 and faced civil lawsuits.
Stewart, now 81, was indicted on 9 counts, including charges of obstruction of justice and securities fraud. She was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct, obstruction of an agency proceeding and making false statements to federal investigators about the sale of her ImClone stock just before its value would have plummeted due to an announcement that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved its drug Erbitux.
4: Jen Shah of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City
The star of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, a reality show airing on Bravo since late 2020, pleaded guilty in July of 2022 to criminal fraud charges stemming from an alleged telemarketing scheme.
According to Fox News, by pleading guilty, Shah did not face trial but will be sentenced for the crime of wire fraud, which involved offering services of little to no value to elderly persons in a telemarketing scheme. Her sentencing date is January 6, 2023.
Shah, 49, pleaded guilty prior to trial as part of the plea deal. Under its terms, she pleaded guilty to 1 charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Also, as part of the plea deal, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering was dropped.
Additionally, the plea deal calls for restitution of as much as $9.5 million.
Before the plea deal, Shah faced the possibility of up to 30 years in prison. However, her plea deal included a sentencing guideline of 11 to 14 years in prison. The judge in the case can sentence her to more or less than the guidelines advise.
Did you know that judges can reject plea deals? Learn why it happens and how to protect your rights if you’re facing a trial for a white-collar crime.
5/6: Teresa and Joe Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey
The two Bravo reality stars both were sentenced to prison terms after being convicted of white-collar crimes.
In late 2014, Joe Giudice was found guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud, and he was sentenced to 41 months in prison. This occurred after he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.
He was released from prison in 2019 and was then deported to Italy.
His wife, Teresa Giudice, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and was released after serving 11 months.
People magazine reported that the couple was indicted in 2013 after being accused of hiding their fortune in a bankruptcy filing.
The 39-count indictment asserted that the couple committed mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud while also making false statements on loan applications. They reportedly exaggerated their income and hid increased assets.
Joe Giudice also was accused of failing to file tax returns between 2004 and 2008.
7: Wealth management financier Bernie Madoff
As a financial advisor to entertainment stars and other celebrities, Madoff became known for creating the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, worth nearly $65 billion. (A Ponzi scheme involves paying investors with funds from other investors rather than from actual investment gains.)
Once chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, Madoff was arrested by federal authorities in 2008 and charged with 1 count of securities fraud.
In 2009, he pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies involving his fraudulent wealth-management schemes. Besides securities fraud, his white-collar crimes included wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, perjury, theft from an employee benefit plan, and making false filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Actual losses to investors were found to be about $18 billion. Around $14 billion has been recovered and returned.
Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison. In 2021, at age 82, he died of natural causes at a federal prison in North Carolina.
Learn about the potential punishments for white-collar crimes in Texas and what defenses your attorney can use to keep you out of prison and protect your rights.
8: Health technology CEO Elizabeth Holmes
Once a media darling for her bold ascendency as CEO of the biotechnology startup Theranos, which claimed to revolutionize blood testing, Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced in November of 2022 to 11 years and 3 months in prison for defrauding investors.
Holmes, 38, will report to prison in April of 2023.
Meanwhile, she awaits a decision on where she will report. According to the New York Post, the judge in her case in California has suggested that she report to a minimum-security women’s Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas, about 100 miles from Houston.
9: Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of TV’s Jersey Shore
Mike Sorrentino starred on all 6 seasons of MTV’s Jersey Shore reality show from 2009-2012 and then on Jersey Shore: Family Vacation. He also appeared as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in 2010.
In 2014, he was charged with tax fraud for failing to pay taxes on $8.9 million of income. In 2017, he was also charged with tax evasion and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting thresholds.
In 2018, he agreed to a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to 1 count of tax evasion. He was sentenced to 8 months in prison, followed by 2 years of probation and 500 hours of community service. He served 8 months at a prison in New York in 2019.
10: Famed gangster Al Capone
In 1931, notorious Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone was convicted of 5 counts of income tax evasion and was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. In 1932, at age 33, he began serving that time at a prison in Atlanta, Georgia, before being transferred to the new Alcatraz federal prison in San Francisco Bay in 1934.
After suffering severe illnesses in prison, Capone was paroled due to failing health in late 1939. Nicknamed “Scarface” and played by Rod Steiger in the 1959 film Al Capone, he never recovered and died at age 48 in 1947.
Get an experienced white-collar defense lawyer
White-collar crimes often come with severe punishments. If you or a loved one living in the Houston area faces a criminal charge for a white-collar crime, you must secure the best white-collar criminal defense lawyer you can find. Your freedom, your reputation and your financial well-being may depend on it.
The Neal Davis Law Firm has received many honors for its handling of white-collar crime cases. Based on peer reviews, Neal Davis has been named among the top 5 percent of America’s defense attorneys for white-collar crimes by Best Lawyers in America each year since 2015.