Although reality TV show stars are known to purposefully contrive situations and events in their lives to raise the stakes and provide compelling material to boost their shows, their lives often involve unintended drama, sometimes as a result of getting on the wrong side of the law.
Crime and its consequences offer staple material for the dramatic portrayal of real-life experience by the entertainment industry. In the case of reality TV shows, the minor encounters of stars with the law have been known to add excitement and drama, and boost ratings. However, the consequences of serious crimes committed by reality TV show stars, namely, arrest, conviction, and imprisonment, often have tragic consequences beyond the purview of their shows.
Over the years, several reality TV show stars have had their promising careers and lives ruined by criminal actions that fetched them long prison sentences. The crimes vary widely from bankruptcy and tax fraud to car theft, burglary, bank robberies, and other crimes.
Although it is widely believed that people with celebrity status often get away lightly with their crimes, several reality TV show stars are known to have paid dearly, and many are currently languishing in prisons.
Here are 15 Reality TV Show Stars Rotting In Jail (And The Crimes That Got Them There)
15 Apollo Nida, The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Apollo Nida, Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) star, and ex-husband of co-star Phaedra Parks, was arrested in January 2014 on charges of identity theft and bank fraud. He was accused of creating multiple fake companies and setting up fake bank accounts using other people's identities. He used the fake bank accounts to steal more than $2.3 million.
He faced a sentence of 30 years, but it was reduced to eight years in May 2014 because he cooperated with the investigators. He began serving his sentence at Kentucky’s FMC Lexington in September 2014, but was later transferred to FCI Fort Dix, in New Jersey. He got engaged in prison to Sherien Almufti in November 2016, shortly after he and Phaedra Parks finalized their divorce in April 2016.
Almufti made her debut as Nida's fiancee on RHOA in April 2017.
14 Abby Lee Miller, Dance Moms
Former Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller, was charged in October 2015 with attempting to conceal income of more than $750,000 in secret bank accounts after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. She pleaded guilty to charges of bankruptcy fraud on June 27th, 2016, and was sentenced in May 2017 to 366 days in prison. She began serving her sentence on July 12, 2017.
Rumors surfaced early in January 2018 that she could be released early in February from the FCI Victorville for good behavior. Miller eventually dispelled the rumors on social media, but said she remained hopeful.
The latest reports about her life in prison have focused on her recent weight loss. After she shared a photo of herself on Instagram, it was claimed that she had lost nearly 100 pounds in prison.
13 Toby Willis, The Willis Family
Toby Willis, who starred on TLC's reality TV show The Willis Family, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in July 2017 for harming minors.
The Willis family became famous after their appearance on Season 9 of America's Got Talent in 2014. The family got a TLC reality TV show of their own a year later. The show, which aired from 2015 to 2016, followed the lives of Toby, his wife, Brenda, and 12 children, who formed a band called the Willis Clan.
The show was canceled after it emerged in August 2016 when this news broke.
Toby, 47, was arrested in September 2016, but investigations led to three other counts. He received a sentence of 40 years without parole.
12 Remigio Gonzalez, Cake Boss
Remigio "Remy" Gonzalez, a former cast member of the TLC reality TV series Cake Boss, and brother-in-law to co-star Buddy Valastro, was sentenced to nine years in prison in May 2012 for harming a 13-year-old girl in New Jersey. He was accused of engaging repeatedly and compulsively with the underage girl who suffered an undisclosed disability. The judge said he found Gonzalez' action disturbing and that he was likely to repeat it.
Gonzalez was arrested in August 2010 after witnesses told investigators that he admitted to his crimes. Under his sentencing, he would spend at least 85 percent of his prison term before he is eligible for parole, and will likely be deported back to Mexico after he is released.
He had appeared on Cake Boss as cake decorator for Valastro's family bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey.
11 Renee Alway, America's Next Top Model
Renee Alway was one of the finalists in Cycle 8 of America's Next Top Model aired in 2007 and later also a finalist in the spin-off, Modelville. She pleaded guilty to burglary, car theft, identify theft, and felony possession of a firearm. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2013.
Alway was arrested after she broke into multiple private residences in Palm Springs, California.
In an interview with ABC after she was jailed, she claimed that her troubles were caused by the stigma of her appearance on reality TV. She apparently suffered disappointment after the promise of a bright future following her reality TV appearances failed to materialize.
She also began overusing prescription pain medications. She eventually became homeless and was arrested in Palm Springs, weeks after she gave birth to her third child.
10 Joe Giudice, Real Housewives of New Jersey
Joe Giudice, a cast member and husband of Real Housewives of New Jersey star, Teresa Giudice, was sentenced to 41 months in prison after he and Teresa were convicted of tax fraud in March 2014. Their criminal operations, which included loan and bankruptcy fraud, allegedly made more than $5 million over a decade.
After Teresa served 15 months for her offence at the FCI Danbury, in Connecticut, Joe began serving his sentence in March 2016 at the FCI Fort Dix, in New Jersey.
The latest reports about his life in prison claim he has lost about 45 pounds. Media reports in November 2017 also claimed he could be relocated from FCI Fort Dix to FCI Allenwood, in Pennsylvania. Giudice is an immigrant from Italy. It is expected that he will be deported back to his native country after he has served his prison term.
9 Will Hayden, Sons of Guns
Will Hayden of Greenwell Springs, who starred on Discovery Channel's reality TV show Sons of Guns, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in May 2017. The 51-year-old was sentenced on charges of harming two underage girls in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. He committed the first offence in the early 1990s and the second in 2014.
His Discovery Channel show, which aired from 2011 to 2014, followed his business in Louisiana. The show was canceled after five seasons when he was arrested in 2014. He was found guilty in April 2017 .
Fans were shocked to learn that one of his victims was his daughter, Stephanie.
8 Joshua Tel Warner, Deadliest Catch
Joshua Tel Warner's appearance as a crew member of the fishing boat the Wizard, on Discovery Channel's docuseries Deadliest Catch, led to his arrest in December 2009 for bank robberies committed in Eugene, Oregon, between 2007 and 2009.
He committed the first robbery in 2007, before he was hired to work on the fishing vessel for the Discovery Channel show. He committed the second robbery in 2009 after his appearance on the show, according to OregonLive. Some TV viewers recognized him from the surveillance footage of his bank robberies aired on local news stations. He had expressed fears in conversation with some of his crew members that his past could come back to haunt him due to his appearance on the show.
The 23-year-old received a reduced sentence of nine and a half years, instead of up to 30 years, for second-degree robbery.
7 Richard Wyatt, American Guns
Richard Wyatt was starring on Discovery Channel's reality TV show American Guns, which followed his personal business, when he was arrested in an ATF raid on his shop, Gunsmoke, in March 2015. He was convicted by a federal jury in March 2017 on felony counts of tax fraud, illegally dealing in firearms, and failure to report to the IRS more than $1 million income earned in the years 2009-2012.
A remarkable aspect of his case was that he was able to operate his firearms dealership without a license and concluded a contract with Discovery Channel for his own reality show despite the fact that his shop in Wheat Ridge was operating illegally.
He was able to sell firearms by using other gun shops to process his sales transactions. Customers who bought guns from him had to go to other shops to complete the transaction.
6 Joshua Allen, So You Think You Can Dance
Joshua Allen won Season 4 of the reality TV show So You Can Think You Can Dance on Fox, in 2008. But in August 2017 he was sentenced to one year in prison, five years of probation, and 52 weeks of counseling, after entering a no contest plea to felony domestic violence and assault with a weapon. He was also ordered to stay away from his ex-girlfriend for at least a decade.
He was first convicted in January 2016 of attempting to injure his ex-girlfriend. In April 2016, he again attempted to cause injury to his ex-girlfriend. In June 2016, he pursued her into a shop, vandalizing the shop in the process.
Bystanders were forced to intervene after he attacked a woman who tried to stop him from harming the victim.
5 Baron Colon, From G's to Gents
Baron Colon, who appeared on MTV's reality show From G's to Gents, in 2009, was convicted by a Miami-Dade jury in September 2015. In January 2006, Colon and two people broke into the home of 44-year-old Marcelo Vera, an art dealer in West Kendall. Colon was accused of shooting and killing Vera.
Stefany Concepcion, Vera's employee, helped the men to gain entrance into the house.
Colon was arrested in 2011 after he reportedly bragged about his crime to a childhood friend who was acting as a police informant. Colon's defense lawyers argued that his confession was not valid because it was only a hip-hop artist bragging. The lawyers claimed that hip-hop artists often bragged about crimes they did not commit to win the respect of their peers. That defence, naturally, did not work.
4 Mendeecees Harris, Love & Hip Hop: New York
Love & Hip Hop: New York star Mendeecees Harris, was sentenced in December 2015 to eight years in prison and a restitution of $170,000. The 36-year-old was sentenced after pleading guilty in April 2015 to charges of running a substance trafficking ring in upstate New York. He was accused of trafficking more than $2.5 million worth of substances from 2005 to 2012.
He tried to defend himself in court by arguing that he was only a small player in a massive drug operation involving distribution of drugs from New York City to Rochester.
After he began serving his eight-year prison sentence in January 2016 at the FCI Allenwood, in Pennsylvania, his wife and Love & Hip Hop: New York co-star, Yandy Smith-Harris, took to Instagram to thank fans for their support.
3 Scott Menaged, Property Wars
Scott Menaged starred in the reality TV show Property Wars, which followed the activities of real estate investors involved in foreclosures. He was arrested in May 2017 on charges of bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identify theft, following an investigation by the IRS and DHS.
He was sentenced to 17 years in prison in December 2017 after pleading to charges that included the embezzlement of loans for real estate purchases in excess of $30 million. He tried to conceal evidence of his crime by creating fake purchase documents.
He was also involved in an identity theft scheme. He used the identities of deceased persons to process credit applications for his business, resulting in losses of more than $2 million to multiple banks.
He was ordered to pay $33.5 million restitution to his victims, which included banks and more than 200 investors.
2 Timothy R. Zickuhr, Ice Road Truckers
Timothy R. Zickuhr starred in Season 2 of History Channel's reality TV series Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads, which aired in 2011. He was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison in 2015 after pleading guilty to kidnapping in a bizarre case involving Lisa Cadeau, a Las Vegas lady of the night, also known as Snow White.
Zickuhr gave Snow White his ATM card in payment for services rendered in December 2013. However, he later accused her of using the card to take $1,000, which, according to Zickuhr, was more than the agreed fee.
When he met Lisa, he attacked and threatened her. He demanded that she contact someone who would pay the money. Snow White gave him the number of a police officer. He called the officer and threatened to kill Snow White if he did not pay the money. The officer agreed to meet Zickuhr, but arrested him instead.
1 Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Jersey Shore
Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, 35, starred on the popular reality TV show Jersey Shore. He and his brother Marc, 38, were convicted of tax evasion after they pleaded guilty in January 2018 to filing false tax returns and tax evasion. Sorrentino allegedly tried to avoid paying federal taxes on income of about $8.9 million earned from 2010 to 2012 by hiding it in secret bank accounts. His brother, Marc, helped to prepare the false tax returns.
Although the two have not received their sentences, the latest reporting on January 17th confirmed that Mike and Marc face prison sentences of up to five years and three years respectively after pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion and fraud, according to ABC News.
Sentencing has been set for April 2018.
Have we missed any other reality TV show stars currently serving prison terms? Let us know in the comments.