UPDATE: Federal prosecutors this afternoon posted the signed plea agreements online of Teresa and Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice, the married stars of Bravo’s hit TV show “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” who admitted in U.S. District Court in Newark this morning that they committed mortgage and bankruptcy fraud.
Although the judge can impose a different penalty, federal sentencing guidelines call for 37 to 46 months in prison for Joe Guidice and a little under two years for his wife.
The likelihood also exists that Joe Guidice — who has lived in the U.S. since he was 1 — could be deported back to Italy, where he has citizenship, once he serves out his sentence.
Although the Montville couple sought to have their cases dealt with separately, prosecutors required that they negotiate their deals as a couple.
Defense attorney Henry Klingeman said he’s going to seek probation for Teresa Giudice at the couple’s scheduled July 8 sentencing, given that she was less involved in the crimes and has four daughters to care for.
Her husband’s lawyer, Miles Feinstein, said he’ll seek probation for his client, as well, but that it wasn’t likely he’d avoid federal prison time.
Under the terms of their agreement with the government, the couple must pay $200,000 before sentencing, followed by an amount to be determined by the judge.
“Today, I took responsibility for a series of mistakes I made several years ago,” Teresa Giudice wrote, in a statement that Klingeman read to reporters after the plea hearing.
“I have said throughout that I respect the legal process and thus I intend to address the court directly at sentencing,” her statement said. “I will describe the choices I made, continue to take responsibility for my decisions, and express my remorse to Judge Salas and the public.
“I am heartbroken that this is affecting my family—especially my four young daughters, who mean more to me than anything in the world.”
Beyond that, she said, she had no other comment “at the recommendation of my attorney and out of deference to the Government and out legal system.”
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman issued his own statement:
“Teresa and Giuseppe Giudice used deception and fraud to cheat banks, bankruptcy court and the IRS. With their guilty pleas, they admitted the schemes with which they were charged. Having now confessed their wrongdoing, the Giudices face the real cost of their criminal conduct.”
A federal grand jury in November added two counts to original charges filed in July that accused the couple of lying on applications for mortgages and other loans when they didn’t have much money, and then trying to hide assets — including nearly $1 million in income — during bankruptcy proceedings.
The 41-count superseding indictment included original charges of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud by making false statements on loan applications, as well as with bankruptcy fraud. It also accused Joe Giudice of failing to file tax returns on nearly $1 million of income for the tax years 2004 through 2008.
Both pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of bankruptcy fraud by concealment of assets, one count of bankruptcy fraud by false oaths, and one count of bankruptcy fraud by false declarations.
Joe Giudice also pleaded guilty to one count of failure to file a tax return.
“Everyone has an obligation to tell the truth when dealing with the courts, paying their taxes and applying for loans or mortgages,” Fishman said when the original indictment was returned. “That’s reality.”
According to Fishman:
“The two additional counts stem from a $361,250 mortgage loan that Teresa Giudice obtained in July 2005. In the course of obtaining the loan, she and Giuseppe Giudice prepared a loan application which falsely stated that Teresa Giudice was employed as a realtor and that she had a monthly salary of $15,000. Teresa Giudice was not employed outside the home at the time.”
According to the initial indictment, the Bravo television show couple submitted bogus mortgage and other loan applications and supporting documents for seven years, beginning in 2001, that “falsely represented that they were employed and/or receiving substantial salaries when, in fact, they were either not employed or not receiving such salaries.”
For example, it says, Teresa Giudice applied for a mortgage loan of $121,500 in September 2001 “for which she submitted a loan application that falsely claimed that she was employed as an executive assistant. She also submitted fake W-2 Forms and fake paystubs purportedly issued by her employer.”
The indictment also cites specific instances of alleged bank and loan application fraud.
On Oct. 29, 2009, the Giudices filed a petition for individual Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark. Over the next few months, the indictment says, they filed several amendments to the bankruptcy petition.
As part of the bankruptcy filings, the Giudices were required to disclose to the government trustee, among other things, assets, liabilities, income, and any anticipated increase in income. The indictment alleges that they “intentionally concealed businesses they owned, income they received from a rental property, and Teresa Giudice’s true income from the television show.”
They also hid income from website sales and personal and magazine appearances, it says.
What’s more, the government says, the Giudices “concealed their anticipated increase in income from the then-upcoming Season Two of the Bravo television show.”
Technically, federal conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years of in prison and a $250,000 fine – although a guilty plea or conviction would bring far less than that.
The same applies to the fraud counts, which carry maximum prison terms of up to 30 years and $1 million in fines.
The bankruptcy fraud offenses can each bring up to five years in a federal penitentiary and a $250,000 fine, while failing to file a tax return exposes those convicted to up a year in prison and $100,000 in fines.
Fishman credited special agents of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, New York Region; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation; Region 3 U.S. Trustee Roberta DeAngelis and the Newark office of the U.S. Trustee, with the investigation that led to the indictments.
The case was being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan W. Romankow and Rachael Honig.
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