PITTSBURGH (AP) — Former “Dance Moms” reality TV star Abby Lee Miller was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison for bankruptcy fraud and for taking $120,000 worth of Australian currency into the country without reporting it.
A federal judge also ordered Miller to pay a $40,000 fine and spend two years on probation following her release. Miller pleaded guilty in both cases last year.
Prosecutors said she tried to cheat her creditors by hiding $775,000 worth of income and deserved prison. Miller’s attorneys argued for probation, saying her creditors were made whole after the fraud was discovered.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci told the court that Miller went from being a “dance mom in the bankruptcy case to dance con.”
Before she was sentenced, Miller read a lengthy statement.
“I’m certainly ashamed to be meeting you for the first time in this manner,” she told the judge. “I wish you could take my class or come to one of my events and see how much I love this.”
The “Dance Moms” star was known for her brash behavior and pursuit of perfectionism from her dance students. The show follows a class of Miller’s elite students and the perilous relationship she has with the girls’ mothers. Critics of “Dance Moms” accuse Miller of being emotionally abusive toward the girls, and many episodes show her students dissolving into tears after a harsh critique.
Miller announced in March that she was leaving the show.
She said her father had perfect credit, and when she took over his dance business and ran into debt, she intended to pay everybody back, but it became more complicated than she thought.
“I didn’t realize when you apply for bankruptcy it’s like signing up for more homework,” she said.
While apologizing, she said the way she handled her money wasn’t an attempt to deceive anyone but just a way to keep her business running.
Prosecutors said Miller repeatedly hid her true income and contracts for future income from her TV shows until her channel-surfing bankruptcy judge saw her on TV and concluded she must be making far more than the $8,899 in monthly income she initially declared.
Miller eventually coughed up $288,000 in TV income she didn’t initially report, but then federal investigators found she’d hidden nearly $550,000 more from personal appearances, dance sessions and merchandise sales.
Miller filed for bankruptcy after defaulting on a $245,000 Florida condominium mortgage and a $96,000 mortgage on her dance studio in Penn Hills, a Pittsburgh suburb, her bankruptcy lawyer said.