5 TV Reality Stars Whose Popular Culture Fell Victim to Personal Finance

By: Amy Woods, August 5, 2015

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, of Jersey Shore fame – best-known for tan, tight abs and a snarky smile – faces federal tax-fraud charges for allegedly filing false returns on nearly $9 million in income earned from the MTV reality show that ran from 2009 to 2012.

Sorrentino, who was arrested in October 2014, and whose trial is set for September 2015, is reported to have funneled the earnings into personal accounts and written off designer clothing and luxury cars, among other items, as business expenses. His financial dilemma is serious. While he pleaded not guilty, he faces up to 11 years behind bars if convicted of the offense.

“The law is absolutely clear: telling the truth to the IRS is not optional,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman told Forbes.

Added IRS agent Jonathan Larsen told Forbes, “No matter what your occupation or status in life, if you attempt to cheat on your taxes for personal financial gain, you face real consequences including criminal prosecution and a possible prison sentence.”

The man who coined one of the show’s signature sayings, “GTL” (gym, tan, laundry), is one of a handful of television reality stars in financial hot water. Here are their stories.

Richard Hatch won the first season of CBS’ Survivor and eventually ended up a convict for evading taxes on the $1 million prize. Hatch served a total of more than four years’ time for the white-collar crime.

Joe and Teresa Giudice rose to fame for starring in Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey. The couple later made less-glamorous headlines after filing for bankruptcy because of an estimated $13 million debt. Then, they entered guilty pleas for bankruptcy fraud, and each received a prison sentence.

Sonja Morgan, of Real Housewives of New York, recently resolved a bankruptcy issue – but not with a great ending. Morgan filed for protection after losing a $7 million lawsuit over a failed movie deal involving her production company.

Todd Chrisley, of Chrisley Knows Best, egregiously flaunted his material possessions on the USA Network show. Chrisley and his family of five often are called the Kardashians of the south. The husband and father ended up filing for bankruptcy after accruing more than $49 million in dept.

Famous or not, all consumers should take care of and be responsible for their personal finances. One fundamental rule simply sums up how to do so: Spend less than you earn.

“Whenever you increase your income or decrease your spending, you’ll find yourself with more cash at the end of the month,” reads an article on The Simple Dollar. “That cash is your ticket to financial freedom, and the more you can get each month, the better off you are. The trick, though, is to not spend it, but to do things that will build a stable future for you.”

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