Todd Chrisley and Wife Julie Sue Georgia Official After Being Cleared of State Tax Evasion
Todd Chrisley and his wife Julie are taking legal action against Joshua Waites, the director of the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Office of Special Investigations, for “specifically targeting” the famous family in their state tax evasion charge, of which they were cleared last week.
According to the lawsuit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, the reality stars’ lawyer Michael J. Bowers said that Waites’ initial charges against Todd, 50, and Julie, 46, was “a shocking example of how an out-of-control public servant can abuse his office and violate the rights of innocent citizens for reasons that have more to do with securing publicity and money for his office than with enforcing the law.”
Waites did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“Our investigators are fair and impartial in their work with a commitment to ensuring compliance with the law,” William Gaston, press officer in the Office of the Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Revenue, said in a statement to PEOPLE. “In accordance with state law and as a matter of standard protocol, the Department cannot comment on the specifics of any investigation, settlement, or pending litigation. This development is disappointing and their accusations are unfounded, but we will decline to provide any further comment on this matter.”
Bowers accused Waites’ Office of Investigations of being given at least $2 million dollars for his “assistance” in forcing “settlements” in cases such as the Chrisleys’, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that several years ago, Waites “began to focus his efforts and desire” on the Chrisley family, particularly Todd, as well as his estranged daughter Lindsie.”
The Chrisleys accuse Waites of targeting Lindise, 26, in an attempt to seek information about the family from her. When he was unable to get the information he wanted from her, Waites allegedly shared the Chrisley’s confidential tax information with Lindsie, according to the lawsuit.
“Ultimately Waites’s efforts failed, but in the process, the Chrisleys were forced to incur substantial personal and financial hardship,” Bowers said in the lawsuit.
On Oct. 8, the Georgia Department of Revenue agreed that the Chrisley Knows Best stars, who had been accused of evading nearly $2 million is state taxes between 2008 and 2016, had overpaid in four of those years, according to a press release obtained by PEOPLE. The couple owed nothing for four other years, according to the release, and had a net liability of less than $77,000 in overdue taxes for just one year of incorrect filing.
“Julie and I knew all along that we had done nothing wrong and that when the facts all came out, we would be fine,” Todd said in a statement. “We’re just glad that the Department of Revenue was willing to keep an open mind and look at all the evidence.”
The Chrisleys and the Department of Revenue officials signed a settlement agreement that ultimately led to the end of a two-year investigation into the Chrisleys’ alleged state tax liabilities.
In the settlement, the DOR dropped its claim that the couple owed more than $2.1 million in unpaid state taxes, penalties and interest and agreed that their total outstanding debt to the state totaled under $110,000. The sole year they owed the state any money was 2009, according to the DOR; that liability has been paid.
The Chrisleys still face charges for allegedly evading federal taxes in the same years.
“We have maintained from day one that there has not been any tax evasion by our clients Todd and Julie Chrisley,” attorney Bruce H. Morris of Finestone, Morris & White said in a statement. “This settlement with the state is a big step in the direction of proving their innocence.”
In August, the couple was indicted by a grand jury for tax evasion, wire fraud and conspiracy bank fraud, according to court papers acquired by PEOPLE. They turned themselves in and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The indictment was handed down in Atlanta-Georgia Northern District. The reality stars’ former accountant, Peter Tarantino, is facing the same charges.
“The allegations contained in the indictment are based on complete falsehoods. The Chrisleys are innocent of all charges,” the family’s attorneys said in a statement to PEOPLE in August.
In a previous statement to PEOPLE, Morris and Friedberg said, “For quite some time now, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has been conducting an investigation of Todd and Julie Chrisley based for the most part on the demonstrably false allegations of a former officer of a company they owned jointly. We saw the results of this effort yesterday — an indictment against Todd, Julie, and their accountant that relies largely if not entirely on emails that we know Todd never sent but rather were fabricated …”
They added that they believed a former employee was making the allegations in retaliation for “a federal RICO suit that the Chrisleys filed against him in 2012. Ironically, it was this lawsuit that sent him to the U.S. Attorney’s office. He wasn’t looking for justice but for revenge …” (Court records indicate that Julie filed a federal RICO lawsuit in 2012 against an executive of Chrisley Asset Management. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the court.) “Now, seven years later, the government has granted this individual immunity from prosecution … to bring an indictment against the Chrisleys.”
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The attorneys said in their statement, “We have no doubt that if this case ever reaches a courtroom, Todd and Julie will be completely exonerated. But in the meantime, their reputation will be sullied by a shamefully unjustified prosecution,” they concluded.
Todd and Julie turned themselves in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Aug. 14— one day after being hit with a 12-count indictment that spans nine years. The indictment, obtained by PEOPLE, alleges that the Chrisleys participated in tax evasion, wire fraud and conspiracy bank fraud.
In the indictment, prosecutors claim the Chrisleys used their production company, 7 C Production, to hide their reality TV income from the IRS, and alleged that Todd directed an employee to falsify income and asset documents. In addition, the Chrisleys allegedly submitted false documents to banks when applying for loans, including fabricated bank statements listing inflated account balances, personal financial statements containing false information about available funds, false invoices, and false audit paperwork.