Miller Pleads Not Guilty to Bankruptcy Charges But Could be Dancing to Jailhouse Rock if Convicted

In 2010 Abby Lee Miller filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize her dance studio. Miller claimed to be more than $400,000 in debt at the time. According to TMZ, Miller paid off these debts in full on 12/31/2013, however, Miller is still facing twenty counts of criminal charges for bankruptcy fraud.  On November 2, 2015, Miller plead not guilty to all charges.  As of this article date no trial date had been set yet.

Abby Lee Miller revels on screen in her role as the star of Lifetime’s hit reality show, Dance Moms, as a hard-driving choreographer that not only takes no prisoners, but seems more than happy to rip at their hearts and dreams.  Her rough and verbally abusive treatment of her young students makes Miller no stranger to controversy or legal troubles.


Once best known for her talent as a choreographer and reality television star, she may soon be also known as the latest celebrity to be found guilty of financial wrongdoings and to serve prison time.

Miller was first suspected of hiding assets when a bankruptcy judge happened to be flipping through television channels and saw Miller on Dance Moms.  The judge began to wonder about her income from the hit show and this chance encounter while channel surfing eventually led to discovering that Miller had been hiding income she earned from her show as well as from merchandise sales, and income from her dance studios.   Hiding income while trying to discharges debts in bankruptcy court is against the law and she is now facing criminal charges.

If Miller is found guilty she will have to pay fines, could be sentenced to jail, and she will have a criminal record.

Miller filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 to reorganize her dance company claiming to be than $400,000 in debt.  As she continued pursuing discharging of her debts in bankruptcy proceedings, she failed to disclose income earned in subsequent years (2012 and 2013) that would have affected her case.  As a result of this failure to disclose financial information, Miller was charged with bankruptcy fraud.

On October 13, 2015, a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh indicted her on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, and false bankruptcy declarations.  Miller has now been charged with 20 counts of bankruptcy related fraud charges including that she maintained a secret bank account to hide more than $755,000 of her income,hid income from her shows, and has been accused of instructing her production company to pay her mother for each episode for the purpose of hiding some of her own income.

If Miller is found guilty on any of the charges she faces it is very likely that she will spend at least some time in jail.  Being a celebrity does not grant you immunity from prosecution, nor from the legal consequences if found guilty.  In 2004 Martha Stewart was sentenced for insider trading and served 5 months in prison, an additional five months on house arrest, and was on probation for two years.  Wesley Snipes began serving a three-year sentence in 2010 for income tax evasion.  Snipes served most of his time in prison and finished his sentence on house arrest.

Miller’s bull-in-a-china shop approach to building her own business and brand helped to elevate her to B-list stardom, but her refusal to play by the rules may come back to haunt her in court.  Although many reality shows make their cast members seem larger-than-life, clearly, Miller’s character will also be called into question outside the realm of cameras.  Investigators uncovered emails between Miller and a business partner, and an accountant were anything but carefully scripted and indicate she knew she was breaking the law.  In one email (Reuters), Miller is alleged to have put in the subject header “Let’s Make Money and Keep Me Out of Jail.”  A second email contained instructions not to put cash into her bank accounts any longer.

If she is convicted, she could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and be subject to a $250k fine for each count she is found guilty, which could total more than $5 million in fines.  If a judge believes she knowingly attempted to defraud the bankruptcy court he/she may decide to be a little less lenient and put her at the bottom of the pyramid.