Perhaps the most telling sign that you should not ever follow any example set by any Bravo "Real Housewife" was delivered on Monday, when the Justice Department announced that Teresa and Joe Giudice, two fixtures on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, were being indicted on 39 counts of charges that include bankruptcy and tax fraud.
"The indictment returned today alleges the Giudices lied to the bankruptcy court, to the IRS and to a number of banks," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. "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." Well, there it was. Fishman could not hold back making a reality TV joke.
Many of the financial crimes Teresa and Joe, parents to four daughters, allegedly committed took place prior to the show. The indictment, returned today by a federal grand jury, alleges that the Giudices, who live in Towaco, N.J., lied about their income to secure mortgages and loans back dating as far back as 2001. As The Associated Press explains, they are effectively accused of "exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their TV show debuted in 2009, then hiding their improving fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired." The fraudulent activity started in 2001, according to the Justice Department.
Below, a snapshot, from the indictment, some of the loans made to the Giudices based on their alleged misrepresentation of their own finances:
The show that made the Giudices television stars (or national embarrassments, depending on how you feel about reality shows) didn't air until 2009. That October, the Giudices filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, allegedly doing so while concealing their income, which had ballooned becomes of their newfound celebrity.
Authorities said that the indictment alleges that the Giudices intentionally concealed businesses they owned, income they received from a rental property, and Teresa Giudice’s true income from the television show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” website sales, and personal and magazine appearances. What is more, the Giudices allegedly concealed their anticipated increase in income from the then-upcoming Season Two of the Bravo television show.
Below, some of the assets the Guidices failed to disclose, again from the indictment:
The Giudices, if found guilty, could spend a lot of time behind bars. The Justice Department explains:
The conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years of in prison and a $250,000 fine. The bank fraud and loan application fraud counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The bankruptcy fraud counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The failure to file a tax return counts each carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Teresa Giudice released a statement that 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.