Realtor on HGTV’s New ‘Lakefront Empire’ Spent 15 Years in Jail

Peggy Albers

Heavy/HGTV/YouTube Real estate agent Peggy Albers of HGTV's new "Lakefront Empire"

When HGTV premiered its new series, “Lakefront Empire,” on March 11, 2024, producers wasted no time revealing the shocking past of one of its stars, real estate agent Peggy Albers.

Early in the first episode, Albers — now one of the top realtors in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks — shared in a sit-down interview with producers that before getting into real estate, she spent 15 years behind bars for drug trafficking.

“There’s never a good time to tell somebody,” Albers said. “Everybody asks me, ‘How long have you been in sales?’ and at that point, you can make something up or you can be honest.”

“I went to college for business management and I chose the wrong business,” she continued. “Becoming a drug trafficker at a young age isn’t the best business idea, but it was the choice that I made. I got over 25 years in prison and I actually did over 15 years.”

Here’s what you need to know:

‘Lakefront Empire’ Star Peggy Albers Says She Cried When HGTV Asked Her to Tell Her Story

Across eight episodes, the first season of “Lakefront Empire” will follow Albers and several other top agents and brokers — Gerardo Cornejo, brothers Jonas and Justin Farrell, Cierra Grein and Amanda Smith — as they help their clients find an ideal lake home, from small getaways to luxury mansions. The realtors also let cameras in to see their personal lives, starting with Albers’ story of turning her life around.

In the first episode, Albers explained her unusual situation to a pair of new clients, recalling how she used to spend time at Lake of the Ozarks’ infamous Party Cove, where boats line up together on the weekend so people can easily hop from one party boat to the next.

“Back in the day, everybody went to Party Cove,” Albers told the Kansas City couple touring homes with her. “Everybody was using (drugs), so I just thought it would be a great idea…if I just started selling it, right? You don’t even realize until you get in trouble.”

According to the Springfield News-Leader, Albers got into drug trafficking at age 19, selling methamphetamine. She was originally sentenced to 25 years in federal prison at age 30, when she had a two-month-old son, per HGTV. Albers’ little boy was raised by her parents until her release from federal prison over 15 years later in June 2015.

In the nearly nine years since her release, Albers told TV Insider that she’s become “the best of the best” among real estate agents in the Ozarks, with $225 million in sales, so she was sad about having to revisit her past as part of the new HGTV show.

She told the outlet, “Our director asked me, ‘Are you okay telling your story now?’ I started crying. I thought I was going to get away with just being the best. I guess the story was one of the reasons that drew HGTV here. Someone that goes away from a small town and does 15 years and comes back and kicks butt.”

Though revisiting her past isn’t fun, Albers told TV Insider, “I found out from the beginning if I didn’t tell my past, the other people would,” she said. I based my whole career on overcoming obstacles because it seems everyone has someone they know who has been incarcerated. A lot of their family members have overcome, and my clients may see hope in me.”

Peggy Albers of ‘Lakefront Empire’ Had to Fight to Earn Her Real Estate License After Prison

After being released from prison, Albers relied on her family to help her get on her feet, she told HGTV, as earning her real estate license was an uphill battle.

“I had to fight for my license, and I won,” she told TV Insider. “I built my whole career on overcoming obstacles and succeeding. I think people can appreciate that. I’m a hustler. I work day and night. I see things differently than most realtors.”

Originally denied a license because of her status as a convicted felon, per the Missouri Times, Alberts testified in a Missouri Senate hearing in 2019 about the need for greater resources to help those who’ve served their time behind bars with a fresh start.

“Everybody knows the recidivism rate is extremely high,” Albers said, according to records from the hearing. “You come out, you don’t have your clothes, you are dependent on other people for your phone, your car, everything. So your first instinct is to do the wrong thing.”

But once Albers was finally granted a probationary real estate license, with help from community members who got behind her, she proved she was capable of thriving.

“They say if you can sell three to five things in a year, it might be the job for you,” she testified. “I sold 35 things and I made $102,000 my first year out of prison.”

According to HGTV, Albers has donated $372,000 of her own money to help other women thrive after prison and is developing a startup called WOO (Women Overcoming Obstacles.

“Whether it be their rent, cell phone or transportation, I try to contribute financially to get them back on their feet,” she said.

Albers, who now has her own real estate firm, told TV Insider, “I just want the whole world to know that just because you go away doesn’t mean you’re a failure or a mistake. At the same time, you’re the one that has to make it happen. You can’t blame others. You have to accept responsibility and move on from there.”

“Lakefront Empire” airs Monday nights on HGTV.