On October 13, 2015, Dance Mom’s star Abby Lee Miller was indicted for fraud for creating a secret bank account in 2012–2013 used to hide income from masterclasses, TV deals from Dance Moms and its spin-offs, and online merchandise sales. She also failed to file required monthly reports of income with the bankruptcy court for 13 months following her declaration of bankruptcy in 2010.
It was all happenstance that the fraud was exposed. Pittsburgh Judge Thomas Agresti, who was the judge in Miller’s bankruptcy case, was about to approve her post-bankruptcy reorganization plan when he was channel surfing and saw commercials for a new show Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition and realized that the reality star wasn’t disclosing her Dance Mom’s contract information in her plan.
In the reorganization plan, she said in 2012 that she would receive some income from her TV show but indicated she didn’t have a contract from the show’s producer, Collins Avenue Entertainment.
Based on that information, Judge Agresti approved her disclosure statement and set a hearing to discharge her bankruptcy case for Dec. 20, 2012. However, one week before that hearing, the channel-surfing judge canceled the hearing and ordered her to disclose her contracts. According to the indictment, in January 2013, Miller suddenly produced a previously undisclosed contract which stated she was getting $288,000 in income from Collins Avenue.
During a hearing in February 2013, Judge Agresti and Miller’s bankruptcy lawyer, Donald Calaiaro, had a heated exchanged in which the judge brought up Miller’s sudden contract appearance and that he’d seen the reality star on TV, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Mr. Calaiaro told the judge that he was unaware of any contracts nor hidden money.
Meanwhile, the judge said, “The problem here is that it looks to the court that she was hiding the ball and until she got caught we wouldn’t have known about this.” Judge Agresti also said, “I realized that there’s an awful lot of money coming into this plan, this case and it hasn’t been disclosed.”
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a grand jury charged her in 2015 with 20 counts of bankruptcy fraud, concealing assets and making false bankruptcy declarations following an investigation by the FBI, IRS and postal inspectors. Agents said by creating new bank accounts (allegedly in her mother’s name) she hid some $755,000 that she had received in 2012 and 2013. She even instructed others to conceal income. If found guilty, she could have faced a fine of $250,000 for each of the 20 counts she was indicted on and five years in prison. She pleaded not guilty in November 2015.
There were several delays in the trial and by February 2016, the case was delayed a fifth time. On June 20, 2016, Miller was also charged with customs fraud relating to undeclared cash from Dance Moms Australia master class tour. She allegedly brought more than $120,000 worth of Australian currency into the U.S. by dividing up the money into plastic bags and asking friends carry to carry her money in their luggage. Miller reached a deal with the IRS criminal investigators to enter a guilty plea to reduced charges on June 27, 2016. Miller pleaded guilty to one count of concealing bankruptcy assets and one count of not reporting an international monetary transaction.
On May 9, 2017, the Abby Lee Dance Company owner was sentenced to 366 days in prison. She was also ordered to two years of supervised release and fined $40,000 along with a $120,000 judgment. She also gave a DNA sample relating to her felony charge
At the sentencing hearing, the judge told Miller, “It’s a very serious situation when someone who files for bankruptcy isn’t truthful with the court.”
On July 12, 2017, Miller began serving her sentence at the Victorville Federal Correctional Institution in Victorville, Calif.
On March 27, 2018, Miller was transferred to a Long Beach, California halfway house to complete her sentence. However, in April 2018, she was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. Much of 2018 was spent relearning how to walk.
In December 2018, Miller announced she would be returning to new season of her reality show, Dance Moms: Resurrection.