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Who the Hell Are the Chrisleys?

An in-depth explainer on the reality TV stars being indicted for tax evasion and accused of extorting their daughter with a sex tape—and that's not even the half of it.

by Alex Zaragoza
Aug 21 2019, 2:52pm

credit: USA Network

Recently, a man named Todd Chrisley has invaded our collective timelines. We have to assume Todd is famous because he's in the tabloids. He appears to have been embroiled in a tangled web of personal and familial messiness that includes: 1) indictments for tax evasion, wire fraud, and conspiracy bank fraud; 2) accusations of involvement in a sex tape extortion scheme made by his estranged daughter, Lindsie; and 3) his own allegations that Lindsie cheated on her husband with two former Bachelorette stars. It's a lot to process, and it's even more staggering when you consider that it all happened within the span of a week.

So, exactly who are these extremely troubled Chrisleys, and what gave them the right to dominate the news cycle with their domestic disputes that should probably be addressed in private with the supervision of a licensed family therapist? We've done the Googling to detangle the lives of these extremely messy "celebrities," and what follows will require a lot of instances of the word "allegedly."

Who in Beyoncé's good green Earth are the Chrisleys?

Todd Chrisley, his wife Julie, and their five exceedingly Caucasian-named children—Kyle, Lindsie, Chase, Savannah, and Grayson—star on the USA network reality series Chrisley Knows Best, which has aired for seven seasons. Todd is a snarky, flamboyant, impossibly smooth-faced real estate mogul in Atlanta who set out to use his millions to launch a department store because he felt fashion was his calling. That was the overarching storyline in early seasons of the show. It never panned out, however, and the Chrisley & Company department store was never mentioned again. But his family found plenty of other antics to get into while leading a very lavish, very Christian life in their 30,000-square-foot Atlanta mansion. According to the one descriptive trait provided by the show's Wikipedia page, Julie "enjoys cooking." She also rolls her eyes a bunch.

Todd's exuberance and scathing delivery of drag queen-level shade has lead to rumors that he's gay, which he's denied, saying he's flattered people think he can get it from men and women. Lindsie left the show in season 5, following a rift with Todd, allegedly over the depiction of her separation on the show (more on that later). A spin-off titled Growing Up Chrisley starring Chase and Savannah premiered in April, and it follows the Chrisley children as they try to make a name for themselves without daddy's help. (Yes, the irony of that appears to escape them.)

More money, more problems, particularly if you may or may not be paying taxes. Allegedly!

While the show may have started out as a fun family romp for the NCIS crowd, full of canned lines, cheesy plots, and some intrusive, highly questionable, and very rude comments from Todd about his wife and daughters' bodies (and a very off-putting ask about their tween son's pubes), their personal lives devolved into more serious tabloid fodder as investigations into the family's finances and taxes began.

In 2017, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported that Todd and Julie had been falsely claiming to be Florida residents during bankruptcy proceedings prior to start of the show in 2014. The report said that the couple also had not filed state income taxes in Georgia (since they supposedly lived in Florida) for years, even though several other documents, court filings, and a 2013 on-camera bankruptcy deposition in which Julie swore under oath that they did not live in Florida, make it clear the Chrisleys very much resided in the Peach State. This matters because Florida does not have state income tax, so residency there would be beneficial to someone with lots and lots of money who'd rather not have a good chunk of that money go to the I.R.S. Todd went on The Domenick Nati radio show in February of 2017 and insisted he's been living in Florida for over 15 years. "If I don't make money in Georgia, I don't pay taxes in Georgia," he said, and chalked it all up to "some off-beat reporter who makes about $35,000 a year and has a bad dye job" just trying to get clout off his name.

It got worse the following month when Kyle, then estranged from the family, did an interview with Good Morning America where he stated that the family has never lived in Florida, alleged that Todd bragged about not paying taxes, and asserted that his father should be held accountable to the law. Now, the Chrisley parents are back in court facing charges for allegedly obtaining millions in bank loans from 2007 to 2012 by giving false financial statements and fake bank statements, not filing tax returns or paying income taxes from 2013 to 2016, and obstructing I.R.S. collection efforts with the help of their accountant. Most recently, the Chrisleys have claimed to live in Tennessee, another state with no income tax. While the Chrisleys have plead not guilty to all charges brought against them, and a final verdict has not yet been reached, these folks definitely seem to be shaping up to be the Giudices of the USA Network.

The infighting among the Chrisleys is somehow messier than their financial issues.

The tax evasion and fraud charges have supposedly caused a huge rift in the family, and they've been sniping at each other on social media with thinly veiled comments like "when you realize who the snakes in the grass are you know exactly which direction to push the lawn mower," (Chase on Twitter on August 12), or via a whole bunch of retweets of Joel Osteen talking about enemies and god having a plan (recently on Savannah's Twitter feed). Both of these Chrisley offspring have also posted family photos where Lindsie has been cropped out or not included and captioned them "FAMILY." Lindsie has fired off some Twitter shots herself, dropping a caption-less gif from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in which Erika Jayne provides receipts. This is far from the first time the Chrisley children have beefed with each other or their parents, though things have escalated to nastier levels with the recent sex tape debacle and cheating allegations.

Lindsie is the eldest of Todd's kids with his first wife, Teresa Terry. In a 2014 exclusive with the Daily Mail, Terry claimed Todd abused her, harassed her, and that Lindsie was kidnapped by her father as a child (though Todd has denied that). Terry also admitted that her relationship with Lindsie is strained, and there isn't much evidence that they're close today, judging by the absence of photos of them together on Lindsie's Instagram and Twitter pages. Even so, Kyle—Todd's son with Terry, and Lindsie's full biological brother—stepped into the ring via an August 14 Facebook post accusing Lindsie and Terry of sic-ing the I.R.S. on Todd and Julie.

Lindsie and Todd have been at odds for years, and it's rumored that she and her stepmom haven't always gotten along, even though Julie adopted Lindsie when she was a teen. Lindsie said on a May 2018 episode of the podcast she co-hosts with Teen Mom 2's Kailyn Lowry that she always felt "like an outcast." It's hard to imagine how the Chrisleys could recover after Lindsie went to Georgia police last month and accused Todd and Chase of blackmailing her by threatening to release a sex tape featuring her and Robby Hayes, a heavily tanned and inexplicably shiny former contestant on The Bachelorette, who has also made the reality rounds by hooking up with cast members on Vanderpump Rules and Bachelor in Paradise. It's a shady reality tv crossover spectacular, y'all!

Those accusations came to light last week, but TMZ reported that the case was dismissed because the alleged extortion happened in Tennessee, and is therefore outside of Georgia state jurisdiction. It appears Lindsie has yet to file a report in Georgia on the matter.

Todd fired back at Lindsie in a statement in which he refutes the extortion claims, then casually mentions his daughter has had "extramarital relationships" not just with Hayes but also another Bachelorette alum, Josh Murray, winner of Andi Dorfman's season of the reality dating competition. Todd said the family tried to keep it private "for her sake." Murray himself released a statement to ET saying, “They should probably focus on how not to be imprisoned for 30 years rather than spreading gossip to try and hurt their daughter." Dang. Todd Chrisley, would you accept this roast?!

It... doesn't end there.

The situation with Lindsie has layers upon layers of messiness. Her marriage to Will Campbell in 2012 became tabloid fodder (and a plot on the series, of course) after they eloped without her father's consent, then announced Lindsie was pregnant five months later, further straining the relationship between the three. Lindsie and Will had regular disagreements with Todd not just about the marriage, but over how to raise their son, Jackson. The couple's separation in 2016 prompted further tabloid attention, as did their reconciliation in 2018 and subsequent withdrawal of divorce papers. Though the separation and struggles brought Todd and his daughter closer for a while, Lindsie's relationship with her father went south as rumors floated that Todd tried to milk her separation for the series.

Chase, Savannah, and Kyle have all sided with their parents in this battle with Lindsie. Lindsie released a statement via her attorney denying she was behind Todd and Julie's indictment, adding "Lindsie has been the constant target of lies, harassment and threats from her family. As a result, she has distanced herself from the Chrisley family since 2017.”

It gets even more complicated, and sad, from there. In his August 14 Facebook post, Kyle, who recently reconciled with his father, also declared Todd's innocence and claimed that he lied in the GMA interview in which he accused Todd of tax evasion. He blamed his drug addiction for leading him to lie about his father's finances. Kyle has struggled with his mental health and substance abuse for years. He was accused of abuse by his ex-girlfriend, with whom he has a daughter who is being raised by Todd and Julie (and appears on the show, of course). Kyle was also arrested in 2013 for battery after allegedly assaulting Lindsie, and he was arrested in May for alleged possession of meth in Oklahoma. He's also got a warrant out for his arrest in Georgia for allegedly threatening to kill his wife, Alexus, in January.

So now what?

Todd and Julie are currently trying to sell their Nashville mansion, purchased just four months ago, for $4.9 million, with Radar Online reporting that a source claims they're selling to gather cash to help cover their legal costs. Todd maintains his innocence, claiming in an Instagram post that the whole mess all stems from a disgruntled former employee that falsified documents. In the meantime, he's slinging mud at his eldest daughter, and wrote in another post on Instagram: "Trust and believe that we are holding the right hand of God on this walk we are on, if he brings us to it he will bring us through it." The post also assured readers that Chrisley Knows Best has not been not canceled. Praise be.

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Alex Zaragoza is the senior culture writer at VICE, and now an unwilling expert in the Chrisley family. Follow her on Twitter.