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'Dance Moms' star's bankruptcy fraud sentencing to be rescheduled

| Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, 5:39 p.m.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Abby Lee Miller enters the federal courthouse Monday June 27, 2016, Downtown to plead guilty to federal bankruptcy fraud and international money transaction charges.

The finale to Abby Lee Miller's bankruptcy fraud case again has been postponed.

The star of the reality series “Dance Moms” was scheduled to learn her fate Friday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. However, Judge Joy Flowers Conti on Wednesday canceled the sentencing hearing at the request of federal prosecutors. A new date has not yet been scheduled.

Miller is seeking probation. Federal prosecutors contend Conti should give Miller 24 to 30 months in prison.

A Pittsburgh native, Miller, 50, in June pleaded guilty to concealing assets during her 2010 Chapter 11 bankruptcy hearing and failing to report bringing more than $10,000 into the country from Australia in 2014.

She remains free on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Her sentencing hearing began last month but took a day, prompting Conti to set aside Friday for additional testimony and her decision.

Last week, Conti granted Miller approval to travel overseas to England from Feb. 16-21. Miller claimed she needed to make the trip to film a movie.

Conti's cancellation of Friday's hearing does not mention the trip as a reason for the postponement.

Before she faced criminal charges, Miller filed for bankruptcy in 2010 due to poor financial management of her business, which included a Penn Hills dance studio.

While she was still in bankruptcy, she became a reality TV star and started pulling in money from the shows and dance class events that her fame made possible. She didn't reveal that new income to the court.

Her bankruptcy involved about $356,000 in debts. Miller hid about $775,000 of income from her “Dance Moms” show as well as ticket and merchandise sales from her Master Class dance classes and other ventures, according to the indictment.

Miller's Chapter 11 voluntary bankruptcy reorganization plan would have allowed her to delay paying off her creditors for about five years without having to pay them interest, prosecutors say.

Federal bankruptcy Judge Thomas Agresti was ready to approve that plan until he came across her “Ultimate Dance Competition” while channel surfing. He also found ads for “The Maniac is Back” and her appearance on “American Idol.”

He ordered her to fully disclose her income and assets and come up with a new plan that would pay off her creditors immediately.

In a government sentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited a recovered email that Miller sent to her accountant on Feb. 15, 2013, after Agresti scolded her and demanded she repay her creditors fully and fast.

Conti has said she is leaning toward granting Miller probation because no creditors actually lost money after the fraud discovery. Prosecutors contend her dishonesty warrants jail time.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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