NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two stars of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” have been freed on $500,000 bond, each after appearing in court Tuesday on federal fraud charges.
As CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported, the usually camera-ready reality stars were stiff and silent as they walked through a crush of media minutes after facing a federal judge.
Surrounded by cameras and reporters, Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice took a swipe at a photographer’s lens as he and wife Teresa Giudice arrived at federal court in Newark, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.
His mother, Filomena Giudice, also smacked Sandberg’s microphone and then chuckled when a cameraman following the reality television stars fell, 1010 WINS reported.
The two were charged in a 39-count indictment Monday with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud.
LINK: Read The Full Indictment
They both had to surrender their passports and can’t travel outside of New Jersey and New York. Joe Giudice could be deported to Italy if convicted because he’s not a U.S. citizen.
Asked by reporters if she’s scared her son could be deported, Filomena Giudice responded, “None of your [expletive] business.”
The couple is accused of exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their TV show debuted in 2009, then hiding their fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired.
Authorities allege the couple submitted fraudulent mortgage and other loan applications from 2001 to 2008, a year before their show debuted on Bravo. Prosecutors said the couple submitted fake W-2s, tax returns and bank account information to lenders.
Prosecutors allege the Giudices received about $4.6 million in mortgages, withdrawals from home equity lines of credit and construction loans.
“Everyone has an obligation to tell the truth when dealing with the courts, paying their taxes and applying for loans or mortgages,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. “That’s reality.”
Teresa Giudice is known for her big personality and lavish lifestyle. She’s built a small empire with cookbooks, custom cocktails and personal appearances.
U.S. attorneys said the couple left a long paper trail showing how much they swindled from the government.
Joe Giudice, an entrepreneur, also failed to file tax returns for the years 2004 through 2008, when he is alleged to have earned nearly $1 million, prosecutors said. During that time his income allegedly fluctuated wildly; the indictment states he made $323,481 in 2005 and $26,194 in 2006.
“The privilege of living well in the United States carries certain real responsibilities, including filing tax returns when required and paying the correct amount of tax,” said IRS Special Agent In Charge Shantelle Kitchen.
Their attorneys said both will plead not guilty.
“Well, the government frequently targets high-profile people to draw attention to their prosecutive efforts,” Teresa Giudice’s attorney, Henry Klingeman, told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.
“We hope that she’s vindicated and spends no time in jail, but it’s a federal case and there’s always a risk of jail,” Klingeman added.
“They’re presumed innocent, they maintain their innocence,” Joe Giudice’s attorney, Miles Feinstein, said.
In a statement, Teresa said she supports her husband and wants to resolve the charges as soon as possible.
“Today is a most difficult day for our family,” she said. “I am committed to my family and intend to maintain our lives in the best way possible, which includes continuing my career.”
A Bravo spokesman had no comment.
In their 2009 bankruptcy filing, the couple said they were $11 million in debt. They stated their monthly take-home pay was $16,583, but $10,000 was from “monthly assistance from family members” and Bravo income.
It also said they owed $2.2 million in mortgages, $13,000 to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom and nearly $12,000 to a fertility clinic.
The most serious charges the couple face, bank fraud and loan application fraud, carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
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