From Dance Teacher to Prison Time: Why Abby Lee Miller Ended Up Behind Bars

The prosecution alleged that Miller hid approximately $775,000 of income earned from the television show, its spin-offs, and merchandise sales.

Alizabeth Swain - Author
By

Mar. 7 2024, Published 12:10 p.m. ET

Abby Lee Miller at  the 13th Annual Thirst Gala & 2nd Annual Legacy Ball at The Beverly Hilton on Oct. 15, 2022
Source: Getty Images

The formidable dance instructor and television personality best known for her role in the reality TV show Dance Moms, Abby Lee Miller found herself at the center of a legal storm that led to her incarceration. She has also faced a death hoax.

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Many fans and critics want to know why Miller went to jail. There was a shocking turn of events in 2017 when Miller was sentenced to 366 days in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, alongside being mandated to pay fines. Here's what we know about her legal issues.

Abby Lee Miller went from being a dance instructor to spending time in jail.

Abby Lee Miller at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 24, 2014
Source: Getty Images

Abigale "Abby" Lee Miller is an American dance instructor, choreographer, television personality, and author, renowned for her pivotal role in the dance industry and her significant impact on reality television through the hit series Dance Moms.

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The show not only showcased Miller's strict teaching style and her passion for dance but also highlighted her ability to produce top-tier competitive dancers. Dance Moms ran for several seasons, becoming a cultural phenomenon and bringing competitive dance to the forefront of entertainment.

Beyond her television career, Miller has also made her mark as an author, sharing her insights into dance training and her experiences in the entertainment industry. Despite facing significant legal and health challenges, including a battle with cancer that led to emergency spinal surgery, Miller has remained a prominent figure in the dance community.

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Abby Lee Miller went to prison due to bankruptcy fraud.

According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, it wasn't tax fraud but bankruptcy fraud, along with other financial offenses, that sent Miller to prison. The legal troubles began when Miller filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, claiming her dance studio was in dire financial straits. However, the success of Dance Moms and the income it generated weren't fully disclosed in her bankruptcy filings.

The prosecution alleged that Miller hid approximately $775,000 of income earned from the television show, its spin-offs, and merchandise sales. This concealed income was a direct violation of bankruptcy laws, which require full disclosure of assets and earnings to ensure creditors can be fairly compensated.

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Miller was also accused of smuggling over $120,000 into the U.S. from Australia in 2014, which she had earned from conducting dance instruction classes. She reportedly divided the money into plastic bags and distributed them among her entourage to avoid declaring the cash at customs, as required by law for amounts over $10,000.

Abby Lee Miller speaking at the 2022 Ultimate Women's Expo Houston Day 2 on Dec. 4, 2022
Source: Getty Images
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According to Deadline, Miller pleaded guilty to the charges of bankruptcy fraud and bringing unreported money into the country. Her sentencing took place in May 2017, where she received a sentence of one year and one day in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release. She was also fined $40,000 and ordered to pay a $120,000 judgment.

Miller was initially sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, which translates to 366 days. However, she spent eight months in prison before being released early. Miller's early release was due to health complications that required urgent medical attention.

Miller served her time in a California prison. The early termination of her sentence allowed her to address her health issues outside of the prison system, which later revealed to be a diagnosis of cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Miller had emergency spinal surgery not long after her release.

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