Just days before the first part of Abby Lee Miller’s sentencing in her multi-million dollar fraud and illegal currency import cases, the Dance Moms host is insisting that the hiding of over $800,000 was all because she became too famous too fast. Miller is also saying she never hurt anyone, she’s been humiliated publicly and she doesn’t deserve to be put behind bars – though the feds really don’t see it that way.
“Ms. Miller respectfully requests that the Court impose a non-custodial sentence after considering her acceptance of responsibility and the nature and characteristics of her conduct and her life,” say Miller’s lawyers in a sentencing memorandum submitted in federal court on Tuesday. “She presently finds herself standing before this Court having admitted to crimes that served almost no purpose but, fortunately, caused no harm,” the 22-page plus exhibits January 12 filing (read it here) adds of Miller’s June 27, 2016 guilty plea after being indicted in October 2015 on 20 counts of fraud and a new charge from June of last year of violating currency reporting laws.
“Indeed, upon proper analysis, Ms. Miller submits that a sentence of probation would be entirely consistent with the advisory Sentencing Guidelines,’ the paperwork by Robert Ridge and Brandon Verdream of Pittsburgh firm Clark Hill asserts. The very vocal Dance Moms host faces up to a maximum of five years behind bars in prison and total fines of more that $5 million – or not, if Miller gets her way with Judge Joy Flowers Conti at sentencing hearings now set for January 20 and February 24.
Despite a wealth of details about Miller’s family and professional background in the memo, the government wants Miller off the dance floor, so to speak. That response comes even with her stated remorse, plus all the information about Miller’s rise to fame starting in 2010 and over the seven seasons of the Collins Avenue Entertainment produced Lifetime series and her “lack of a prior criminal record, her gender, her race, and her age at sentencing” and there relation to “statistically low recidivism rates,”
Specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Pennsylvania town, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci, wants to see Miller get up to 33-months jail time and some big bucks fines. That’s the consequence and sentencing they stated earlier this week that she deserves for the over $755,000 in income from the show, merchandising, her MasterClass sessions and others assets that Miller apparently actively concealed from a bankruptcy judge starting over 5-years ago.
“It is apparent that Miller is not easily deterred by threat of criminal prosecution, even standing before a federal judge,” the Pittsburgh-based U.S. Attorney’s office says. “A guideline sentence is a sufficient but not greater than necessary sentence in this case,” the feds add in their own January 12 sentencing memo (read it here).
To press their point, the government quotes in their filing from an email that Miller sent to her accountant on February 15, 2013 after Judge Thomas Agresti admonished her and demanded she repay her creditors fully and fast.
“Oh god I miss u,” says the correspondence over hidden funds from Dance Moms and more that Miller was having Collins Avenue deposit in various and even make payments to her mother, amidst talk of spinoffs of the show and more seasons. “The judge was a dick! He hates me…I’m paying Everyone I owe 100% back in one big check!” the not so naive sounding Miller adds. “Who does that! Nobody in bankruptcy! But he won’t just say look I hate you and I don’t want to see u again pay everybody and go! Now my Pgh atty are making Collins ave and the entertainment attorney jump through hoops!” To make sure its contention that the more than $25,000 a Dance Moms episode benefiting Miller was unrepentant was emphasized, the government says in its Tuesday filing: “Later in the same email, Miller is seriously concerned that her plan to deposit income into the two subchapter S corporations would now be unraveled as well.”
“Miller committed multiple offenses for which she accepted responsibility in the context of the bankruptcy,” the January 17 submission to the courts from Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song’s office damningly says. “She both schemed to defraud the court, conceal assets, and falsify bankruptcy schedules while under oath.”
The rub is that Miller’s bankruptcy case was almost over in 2012 when Judge Agresti was channel surfing and fell upon Dance Moms one night. When he started to wonder why funds and fees from the series wasn’t among the income Miller was declaring, red flags went up – which brought us to the indictment in October 2015 and where we are now.
In their own sentencing memo this week, Miller’s own lawyers say it was the abrupt spotlight of fame and opportunity that is really to blame – and she’s sorry, really. “Ms. Miller was overwhelmed and under-equipped, and this led to her failure to respect to the bankruptcy process,” Team Miller states in its hopes for leniency. “Her engagement of lawyers, accountants, and other professionals was haphazard, episodic, and at times, counter-productive.”
And, subsequently, it seems Miller is the real victim – at least in her current lawyers’ eyes.
“In addition to the consequences she is facing through this sentencing, Ms. Miller has suffered the consequence of a very public humiliation through obsessive media attention to these proceedings,” stress Ridge and Verdream to Judge Conti. “However, in the aftermath of her indictment, Ms. Miller has surrounded herself with professionals, including legal counsel, accountants, and other specialists to ensure that she will not recreate the circumstances that led to this sentencing,” they note, even though the August 2014 incident of Miller sneaking around $120,000 USD into the States from Australia without the required reporting happened after the bankruptcy dispute had already arisen. “Ms. Miller is prepared to serve her sentence, put this episode behind her, and move forward with a law-abiding future.”
OK, the Dance Moms host may want to move on but with any chance of a deal now scuttled, the judge may see the future in a more constrained manner – as we’ll begin to discover later this week.