Defense chips away at total ‘Dance Moms’ star hid from court

Dance Moms-Bankruptcy Fraud
Former "Dance Moms" reality star Abby Lee Miller arrives at the Joseph F. Weis Jr. U. S. Courthouse in Pittsburgh for her sentencing on federal bankruptcy fraud charges, Monday, May 8, 2017. (Darrell Sapp/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

PITTSBURGH (AP)(STL.News) — Defense attorneys for former “Dance Moms” reality star Abby Lee Miller spent the day Monday trying to chip away at about $775,000 in income federal prosecutors said she tried to hide from a bankruptcy judge.

The amount is important because it will drive the sentence Miller, 51, receives for her bankruptcy fraud plea last year. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci wants Miller to spend 2 1/2 years in prison, while her attorneys are hoping she’ll receive probation. The hearing was scheduled to resume Tuesday.

Miller’s attorney Brandon Verdream got FBI special agent Sean Langford to acknowledge that Miller split some of her merchandise sales 55-45 with an investment partner and that some income from personal appearances didn’t take into account her expenses.

But Melucci contends that doesn’t matter because someone in bankruptcy must truthfully disclose all income so the court can ensure creditors receive maximum value in a repayment plan approved by the court.

Melucci contends 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, then federal investigators found she’d hidden nearly $550,000 more from personal appearances, dance sessions and merchandise sales.

Miller’s other defense attorney, Robert Ridge, questioned her bankruptcy attorney, David Valencik. Valencik said 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.

Miller wanted the bankruptcy court to let her repay only $150,000 of the condominium mortgage at a lower interest rate and sought to repay her other debts in full but without interest or at lower rates. The outraged bankruptcy judge ordered Miller to repay every penny.

Valencik testified that Miller didn’t immediately disclose the TV income because her career was just taking off and she couldn’t guarantee her future earnings.

“We didn’t think that it was reliable,” he testified.

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