Bankruptcy Lawyer Bryan W. Stone answers the question: “Will anyone find out about my bankruptcy?”
Bankruptcy judges are people too, in that in their free time, some like to occasionally relax at home and channel-surf.
This inconvenient fact was the basis for the multiple charges of bankruptcy fraud to which Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller pled guilty this June: a bankruptcy judge who was familiar with the reality star’s Chapter 11 case happened upon an episode of the dance instructor’s show whilst channel-surfing at home. One glitz-and-glam-packed episode in, the judge got the inkling that Miller might be pulling in more than the $8,899 monthly income she claimed in her bankruptcy filing.
One IRS investigation later, authorities discovered Miller had used a secret bank account to hid $228,000 income from her two reality shows (Dance Moms and spin-off Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition), as well as $550,000 income from merchandise and appearances related to her reality show stardom.
This June, Miller also pled guilty to not reporting more than $10,000 worth of Australian currency she brought into the United States in 2014. Authorities said she divided the cash into plastic bags and had others traveling with her spread the smuggled funds out amongst their luggage.
Miller was supposed to be sentenced this October, but her sentencing hearing was recently moved to December as both sides wait on a federal appeals court to decide a similar bankruptcy fraud case that could impact Miller’s sentencing. Based on the federal sentencing guidelines, she could face between 24 and 30 months in jail and a fine of $250,000 for each count of bankruptcy fraud.
Lifetime’s Dance Moms, the first and primary reality show that launched Miller into the spotlight, premiered in 2011 and follows the tryouts, practice sessions and performance competitions of Miller’s young students. It has been rumored to be in trouble since its star dancer Maddie Zeigler left to pursue her dancing career. Zeigler was 11 when indie-pop singer Sia tapped her to dance in the artist’s Chandelier music video that soon after went viral. Now 13, Zeigler has performed in a number of other music videos for Sia, and is appearing as a judge on the next season of So You Think You Can Dance.
Meanwhile, Miller is left with a show that is struggling for views after its star’s departure, and is reportedly having trouble finding dancers to even audition to replace Zeigler. The bankruptcy fraud sentencing could be the final nail in the coffin for Dance Moms, although this is not Miller’s first trouble with the law since the show’s inception. One of the show’s dancers sued her in 2014, alleging assault and that the show’s producers encourage a violent atmosphere in order to attract viewers. Known for her demanding and combative approach to coaching, Miller also later faced a lawsuit for emotional distress brought by another dancer and her mother.
Miller’s original Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing back in 2010 listed that she owed $26,000 in unpaid local taxes. It also listed the names of several Dance Moms costars’ parents as debtors who still owed her money.
If you are contemplating bankruptcy in the Charlotte area, please call the skilled lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC find additional resources here. As professionals who are experienced at handling all kinds of bankruptcy matters, our attorneys will provide you with legally sound advice for your particular situation.
About the Author
Kyle Frost joined Arnold & Smith, PLLC in 2013 where he focuses his practice on all aspects of civil litigation and bankruptcy, including: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13, home loan modifications and landlord-tenant issues.
Born and raised in upstate New York, Mr. Frost attended the University at Albany on a Presidential Scholarship, graduating magna cum laude with a double major in Political Science and Sociology. He went on to attended Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Following college, Mr. Frost spent over a year teaching English in South Korea. He worked in a private school in Seoul developing curriculum, English programs, and educating both children and adults that were interested in learning a new language.
In his spare time, Mr. Frost enjoys homebrewing, fishing, and travelling.
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