'Real Housewives of New Jersey' stars face fraud charges

Teresa and Joe Giudice, stars of the Bravo reality series "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," face federal charges of fraud. Andrei Jackamets / Bravo

Two stars of the TV reality show “Real Housewives of New Jersey” were hit with a dose of reality Monday when federal prosecutors charged them with 39 counts of fraud, alleging that they used fake paystubs, tax returns and W-2s to secure nearly $5 million in loans before trying to declare bankruptcy.

Teresa and Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice, married stars of the Bravo series, face up to 30 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines if convicted. In addition to wire, mail and bank fraud, the indictment charges the couple with bankruptcy fraud, and charges Joe with failing to file tax returns for five years, during which he earned nearly $1 million.

“Everyone has an obligation to tell the truth when dealing with the courts, paying their taxes and applying for loans and mortgages,” said Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. “That’s reality.”

In a statement, Teresa Giudice said: "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."

Her attorney, Henry Klingeman, added: "Teresa will plead 'not guilty.' The judicial process that begins today with an indictment is a search for the truth. As it moves forward, we look forward to vindicating her."

“The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” which chronicles the often tumultuous lives of five women and their mates in Northern New Jersey and is now in its fifth season, began airing in May 2009. Teresa Giudice parlayed her sudden celebrity into best-selling cookbooks and an appearance on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” among other sidelines.

In October 2009, before the second season of the show began airing, the Giudices filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court in Newark. As part of their filings, they were required to disclose their assets, income, liabilities and any anticipated increase in income.

Federal prosecutors now allege that between 2001 and 2008, the Guidices submitted fraudulent documents and supporting information, including fake paystubs and W-2 forms, in order to obtain eight mortgages, construction loans and lines of credit from a variety of lenders. Among the loans, which totaled $4.92 million, were a mortgage worth $1.72 million from CBBC and a construction loan of $1.7 million from Sterling, both approved in 2008, the year the reality show began production.

Prosecutors allege that the couple concealed Teresa’s true income from the TV show, website sales and personal appearances, including her ownership of the company TG Fabulicious, as well as income from real estate holding’s and Joe’s fuel oil business. They also alleged that in years before the show, Teresa pretended to work at a stucco company and also falsely claimed to be working as an executive assistant in order to report a salary on several mortgage applications.

Giuseppe also allegedly earned $996,459 in income from 2004 to 2008, but did not file tax returns.

The Giudices’ application for bankruptcy was denied in 2011.

Bravo declined to comment on the indictment and on whether it would affect production of the show.

In an unrelated case, Joe Giudice was set for trial earlier this month on charges that he posed as his brother Pietro to obtain a driver’s license. The trial has been postponed. Giudice rejected a plea deal that would have required him to serve four years, and faces up to ten years in state prison if convicted.

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