From dance mom to dance con: Abby Lee Miller gets year in prison
PITTSBURGH — Former “Dance Moms” reality TV star Abby Lee Miller was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison for hiding $775,000 worth of income and bringing $120,000 worth of Australian currency into the U.S. without reporting it.
U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti also fined Miller $40,000 — on top of the $120,000 in currency she’s forfeiting as part of guilty pleas entered last year — and ordered her to spend two years on probation after prison.
Miller, 51, filed for bankruptcy, just as her star was rising in late 2010, after defaulting on a $245,000 Florida condominium mortgage and a $96,000 mortgage on her Abby Lee Dance Company studio in Penn Hills, a Pittsburgh suburb.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci told the judge that Miller went from being a “dance mom in the bankruptcy case to dance con” by hiding her income.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Agresti nearly approved a plan to let Miller repay her creditors at lower interest rates and longer terms before he saw her on TV one night and figured she must be making far more than the $8,899 in monthly income she initially declared. It’s a crime to deceive a bankruptcy judge about one’s income and assets because that information is used to determine how much and how soon creditors will receive in the court-ordered repayment plan.
Miller eventually coughed up $288,000 in TV income she didn’t initially report in 2012, then federal investigators found she’d hidden nearly $550,000 more from personal appearances, dance sessions and merchandise sales.
Defense attorney Robert Ridge asked the judge to not hold Miller’s celebrity against her, saying Miller “was ill-equipped to deal with the brand that she became.”
The “Dance Moms” star was known for her brash behavior and pursuit of perfectionism from her dance students. The show followed a class of Miller’s elite students and the perilous relationship she has with the girls’ mothers. Critics of “Dance Moms” accused Miller of being emotionally abusive toward the girls, and many episodes show her students dissolving into tears after a harsh critique.