I will admit that when it comes to reality TV – whether it’s talent shows or making people eat bugs in the jungle or watching the banal lives of young adults in Essex or Chelsea – I’m a non-starter. My only concession to the genre is “The Great British Bake-Off”, and that’s because of my sweet tooth rather than any fondness for reality. So “Dance Moms” in America had completely passed me by. I see from Wikipedia that the show is every bit as ghastly as the title suggests, and “follows the early training and careers of children in dance and show business under the tutelage of Abby Lee Miller, as well as the interactions of Miller and the dancers with their sometimes bickering mothers”. Pass the remote. But hold on a sec: apparently dance tutor Abby Lee Miller has something of a sideline – in money laundering. On 27 June 2016, she pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. Turns out that she set up bank accounts to conceal US$675,000 in income (that bickering’s well paid) from “Dance Moms” and various spin-offs (is that a dance term?) and merchandise in 2012 and 2013 – during which time her dance studio had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. She also admitted smuggling between $120,000 and $150,000 in Australian currency back into the US without declaring it. She will be sentenced in October, and faces up to 30 months in prison.
But she’s not the first reality TV “star” to fall prey to the temptations of money laundering. On 3 March 2016, one of our own home-grown stars, former “X Factor” contestant Nathan Fagan-Gayle was found guilty of laundering £20,000 proceeds from a fraud on an elderly woman – one of many charged in connection with the same fraud perpetrated on several pensioners and uncovered by the Met Police. “Starboy Nathan”, as he was known on the singing talent show, carefully transferred £5,000 to his mum and girlfriend to give it the appearance of “fresh money” and then withdrew the remaining £15,000 in cash, blowing the lot on designer clothes and shoes and (more oddly) car hire. He was jailed for 20 months.