Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, one of the stars of the "Jersey Shore" reality TV series that depicted 20-somethings partying and brawling by the seaside, pleaded guilty Friday to cheating on his taxes.
Sorrentino and his brother, Marc, were charged in 2014 and again last year with multiple counts related to nearly $9 million in income from the show.
They had pleaded not guilty, but wrote a letter to the judge this week stating they wanted to change their pleas. Their trial had been scheduled to begin next month.
On Friday, Michael Sorrentino pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and admitted concealing his income in 2011 by making cash deposits in amounts that wouldn't trigger federal reporting requirements. His sentencing was scheduled for late April. The max penalty is a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Marc Sorrentino also entered a guilty plea. He pleaded guilty to aiding in the preparation of a false and fraudulant tax return.
"All of us are required by law to pay our fair share of taxes. Celebrity status does not provide a free pass from this obligation," U.S. Attorney Carpenito said in a press release.
Michael Sorrentino walked from the courthouse Friday smiling behind his sunglasses and holding hands with his girlfriend. He didn't answer questions from reporters, but his lawyer, Henry Klingeman, said his client was a new man who has been sober for two years and is in a steady relationship. Klingeman blamed part of the tax evasion on bad financial managers while his client was busy being a reality TV star.
Klingeman blamed financial managers for hiding income from the IRS in 2011 and providing false information in tax returns from 2010 to 2012.
"Mike was out doing his job, which is entertaining people, making personal appearances, filming the show. And there were other people who were supposed to be managing the financial house and didn't," Klingeman said.
During the court hearing, the reality television star requested approval to travel to Florida while under probation for the filming of a “Jersey Shore” reunion show. The court granted him approval for the trip.
"The Situation" appeared on all six seasons of the MTV reality show, which followed the lives of rowdy housemates in a New Jersey beach town. They were known for their drunken antics and the phrase they used to describe their lifestyle: "gym, tan, laundry."
Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie criticized the show for promoting stereotypes. Last year, he signed a bill capping the amount of state money universities can pay for speakers, because Rutgers University paid "Jersey Shore" cast member Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi $32,000 in 2011.
The brothers initially were charged with filing bogus tax returns on income earned between 2010 and 2012, mostly through two companies they controlled, MPS Entertainment and Situation Nation. They allegedly filed false documents that understated the income from the businesses as well as their personal income.
The U.S. attorney's office filed additional charges last April, including tax evasion, structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements and falsifying records.