If found guilty, Abby Lee Miller could end up behind bars for as long as her show has been on TV. The Dance Moms star was indicted Tuesday by a Pittsburgh grand jury on 20 counts of fraud. Miller is alleged to have hidden more than $755,000 in earnings from the Lifetime reality series produced by Collins Avenue Production and related businesses from the courts and the taxman. All of which could end up costing Miller five years in prison and more than $5 million in fines if convicted. “Criminal prosecution is appropriate when debtors corrupt the bankruptcy process through deceit and lies before the court,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton bluntly today announcing the indictment (read it here).
Citing charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets and false bankruptcy declarations, among others, the indictment says that Miller orchestrated a complex shell game to hide money in recent years following her 2010 Chapter 11 petition to reorganize her dance studio business. That shell game of secret bank accounts brought accountants and even her family into the plan as well. “It was further a part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that in order to conceal her TV show income, Miller directed Collins Avenue to pay approximately $51,800 of Miller’s TV show talent fees to her mother, Maryen Miller,” says the indictment.
The investigation by the feds started after the judge in Miller’s bankruptcy case saw Dance Moms on TV and grew suspicious as to where all the money from the show was. Despite being mentioned several times in the indictment as paying funds for Miller to third-party vendors and others, Collins Avenue is not named as a defendant.
Each charge in this week’s indictment comes with a $250,000 fine. The arraignment is scheduled for November 5 in federal court in Pittsburgh. Miller has yet to enter a plea. Not unsurprisingly, Lifetime had no comment on the indictment or the future of Dance Moms, which recently began shooting its sixth season according to Miller.
Started filming season 6 today of #DanceMoms! Get excited!!!
— Abby Lee Miller (@Abby_Lee_Miller) October 8, 2015
Whatever happens with the show or Miller’s role on it, what is clear right now is that the government believes Miller, who is no stranger to the courts, was stashing a lot of money around even as she was getting approval and discharged from her Chapter 11. Her bankruptcy plan “was approved by the bankruptcy court despite the fact that Miller knowingly concealed from the Trustee, creditors and the Court a substantial amount of business income which she earned from her appearances as the featured performer on the reality television program Dance Moms, and related spinoff TV programs, as well as income she earned from Masterclass dance events and online merchandise sales from Abby Lee Dance Company.com.”
While Lifetime isn’t commenting, those taking Miller to court — and possibly prison — had plenty to say.
“Fraud and dishonesty in bankruptcy proceedings undermines the integrity of these important proceedings and especially hurts the creditors and American Taxpayers,” said IRS agent Akeia Conner said Wednesday. “Concealing assets from the Court and not paying taxes is a gross violation of civic duty, and IRS Criminal Investigation will work diligently with our law enforcement partners to pursue those who do so.”
Better dance fast, Abby.