The former employee who turned the Chrisleys into the FBI was obsessed with Todd, the defense said.
The employee, Mark Braddock, impersonated Todd Chrisley in emails and calls.
When he was fired, he turned to the FBI for “protection and revenge,” Chrisley’s attorney said.
“From the moment Mark Braddock met Todd Chrisley, he was obsessed,” Chrisley’s attorney Bruce Morris told a federal jury Tuesday of the man who turned his client into the FBI.
While working for Chrisley — a reality TV personality now on trial for bank and tax fraud — Braddock went out of his way to make his life as similar as possible to his boss, according to Morris.
He bought one of Chrisley’s homes “so he could live like Todd,” decorated it with Chrisley’s old furniture, learned how to sign Chrisley’s name, and impersonated Chrisley on the phone, Morris said — before playing two recordings of Braddock pretending to be Chrisley on calls for the jury.
Then, in 2012, when Chrisley fired the employee after learning that he mismanaged his real estate business, the employee sought out “protection and revenge” by going to the FBI to allege Chrisley committed bank fraud, Morris told a federal jury Tuesday.
The only one who committed bank fraud, though, was that employee, Morris alleged.
Opening statements in the Atlanta trial of Todd and Julie Chrisley kicked off Tuesday in Judge Eleanor Ross’ 17th-floor federal courtroom. The couple from the USA Network reality series “Chrisley Knows Best” is accused of evading taxes and operating a conspiracy defrauding banks to make it look like they were wealthier than they were to live an extravagant lifestyle they couldn’t afford.
The Chrisleys deny the charges — instead alleging that the “tax evasion” was just the result of a sloppy accountant — who is also on trial for his alleged role in the conspiracy.
And the bank fraud, Morris said, was committed by Braddock, who was pretending to be Todd Chrisley.
Morris told the jury in his opening statement that Chrisley’s only success in business was from buying homes, fixing them up, and selling them for a profit — and he did so by following a very straightforward formula.
Chrisley, who only has a high school education, never did anything overly complicated in business, he said.
So when an opportunity arose for Chrisley to take on a bigger business, managing a lot of homes at once, he turned to the help of Braddock — an IT professional who he met at a PTA meeting, Morris said.
Chrisley spent his time “out flipping houses” but wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the larger company, Chrisley Asset Management, Morris said.
“His main mistake is that he wasn’t there” he said. “Braddock was handling everything.”
While running CAM, Braddock produced false documents and provided them to banks to get loans in Chrisley’s name, but Chrisley didn’t know they were fake, according to Morris. To cover his tracks, Morris alleged, he would send emails to Todd Chrisley as himself, and then respond to himself from Chrisley’s email account.
When Chrisley found out what he was doing in 2012, he told Braddock he was “going to jail” and then Julie Chrisley sued him, alleging he stole money, Morris said.
He then turned to federal and state authorities, admitting his involvement in the fraud, but claiming Chrisley was the one who instructed him to do it.
The lies continued after Braddock was out of the picture, Feds say
Prosecutors called Braddock – who they offered immunity for his cooperation – a “fraudster,” and acknowledged that he admitted to crimes he committed while working for the Chrisleys.
The former employer, though, wasn’t the mastermind behind the conspiracy – Todd and Julie Chrisley were, Assistant US Attorney Annalise Peters said in her opening statement.
The fraud was backed up with other evidence — outside of Braddock’s word — and the couple continued to “lie through their teeth” to get whatever they wanted from banks or to avoid paying taxes, even after they cut ties with their former employee in 2012, Peters said.
“They were dead to each other,” she said.
The prosecution called three IRS revenue officers on Tuesday and Wednesday to testify about the long and unsuccessful bid to get the Chrisleys to pay and file overdue taxes.
Todd Chrisley owed over $500,000 in taxes in 2009, and the government says the couple attempted to hide millions of dollars in reality-show income from the IRS in a corporation — 7C’s Productions — which was in Julie Chrisley’s name.
Eventually, in March 2017, the couple learned that they were under investigation and the corporation account had been provided to the IRS, prosecutors say. The next day, Julie Chrisley took her name off the account and replaced it with her mother-in-law’s, a Bank of America employee testified Tuesday.
Prosecutors alleged that was done in an attempt to keep the IRS from taking money from the account. They said the couple’s accountant, Peter Tarantino, was in on the scheme and lied to the IRS on their behalf.
The three IRS employees also spoke of their efforts trying to get information about the couple’s income, property, and other tax information from Tarantino between 2017 and 2019, but he never provided complete answers.
One revenue officer said Tarantino told her in a phone conversation that he didn’t know where the couple banked, but an email sent from Tarantino to the Chrisleys before that conversation showed he knew that they had a Bank of America account.
In his opening statements Tuesday, Tarantino’s attorney, Danny Griffin, said that his client was an accountant who failed the CPA exam many times over 20 years and was unqualified to have taken on the Chrisleys.
He is a procrastinator who was “in over his head,” but not a criminal, he said.
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