'Dance Moms' star Abby Lee Miller pleads not guilty to fraud

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 02, 2015 6:09 PM

By Elizabeth Daley

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Reuters) - Reality television show star Abby Lee Miller pleaded not guilty on Monday to concealing over $755,000 in income that U.S. investigators say she earned from Lifetime network's "Dance Moms" and spinoff projects during her Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Miller, 50, who appeared in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets and false bankruptcy declarations.

If convicted, Miller faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the 20 counts against her, U.S. Attorney David Hickton said in a statement.

Miller had filed for bankruptcy in December 2010 to reorganize her dance studio, Abby Lee Dance Co in the western Pennsylvania municipality of Penn Hills. She is accused of scheming to defraud the bankruptcy court by concealing income she earned in 2012 and 2013, that was deposited into undisclosed bank accounts.

Miller, whose company exited bankruptcy in 2013, denies that she knowingly concealed income.

"Let's hope they get the numbers of the expenses that went out," she said when asked if she had any comments on the case. 

"Dance Moms," which is filming its sixth season, follows the lives of competitive young Pittsburgh-area dancers and highlights tensions between Miller and their parents.

Questions about the accused fraudulent activity were first raised after a bankruptcy judge happened to watch one of Miller's spin-off shows and doubted her claim that she was cash-strapped, the indictment said.

Federal investigators say they found Miller's emails to a joint venture partner in 2013 with the subject line "Lets make money and keep me out of jail," directing them to "not raise any red flags" and "don't put cash in the bank," according to the indictment.

Inside the courthouse, Miller joked with her attorney, telling him to "get a stylist next time." Miller, who wore all black and carried a Prada purse, declined to answer questions outside and instead promoted her shows and related merchandise. She drove off in a blue Mazda 3.

Miller has been released from custody but must notify the court prior to international travel. A trial date has not been set.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by Laila Kearney and Richard Chang)