August 7, 2013

If there’s one thing this reality TV star is missing, it is… well, reality.  On July 29th,  Real Housewives of New Jersey cast member, Teresa Giudice and husband Giuseppe (“Joe”), were slapped with a 39-count federal grand jury indictment.

According to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman the charges include:

  • Mail and wire fraud
  • Defrauding lenders by making false statements on loan applications
  • Bankruptcy fraud

The Giudices also failed to file tax returns for 2004 through 2008, during which time Joe is believed to have earned about $1 million.

“The indictment returned today alleges the Giudices lied to the bankruptcy court, to the IRS and to a number of banks,” said Fishman after the hearing. “Everyone has an obligation to tell the truth when dealing with the courts, paying their taxes and applying for loans or mortgages. That’s reality.”

Money Troubles Run Deep

The couples’ legal troubles go back a dozen years.  According to the indictment, in 2001 Teresa applied for a mortgage of $121,000, using falsified documentation. She claimed to be working as an executive assistant, and attempted to support her claim with W-2s and paystubs which were fake.

In 2009 Teresa was hired to appear on Real Housewives of New Jersey.   A year later, she and Joe filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, listing $11 million in debt against annual income of $79,000.  Unfortunately for Teresa, her newfound celebrity status meant a lot of eyes were focused her way.  The New York Post reported the couple went on a $54,000 shopping spree, within a few days after filing bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy trustee subsequently recommended the judge deny their petition for relief.  The trustee also entered a complaint, alleging the couple:

  • Did not report businesses they owned
  • Omitted rental income from their filing
  • Failed to report Teresa’s signed $250,000 book deal
  • And misstated her income from Real Housewives.

Teresa’s attorney told reporters the couple will plead not guilty.  If convicted, the Giudices – who have four young daughters — could do significant prison time and Joe could be deported. They have been ordered not to travel beyond New Jersey and New York, have surrendered their passports, and have each paid bail of $500,000.

Even so, Teresa sounded confident when she told the New Jersey Star Ledger, “Today is a most difficult day for our family. I support Joe and, as a wonderful husband and father, I know he wants only the best for our lovely daughters and me. I am committed to my family and intend to maintain our lives in the best way possible, which includes continuing my career. As a result, I am hopeful that we will resolve this matter with the Government as quickly as possible.”

What’s the lesson? Bankruptcy authorities were not born yesterday. Teresa and Joe thought they could outsmart them with amateur fraud tactics. Honest dealing doesn’t always pay well, but it saves a bundle in attorney fees, fines, penalties, and doesn’t cost you your freedom.