NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — “Real Housewives of New Jersey” stars Teresa and Joe Giudice have pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
The couple arrived at the federal courthouse in Newark on Tuesday without speaking to reporters. They had pleaded not guilty last year to dozens of charges including bank fraud, wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud.
Under federal guidelines, Joe Giudice faces a potential sentence of 37 to 46 months and Teresa Giudice could get 21 to 27 months.
Prosecutors allege the two used fake documents to inflate their incomes and obtain millions of dollars in mortgages and other loans.
In November, they were charged with one count of bank fraud as well as one count of loan application fraud.
Authorities allege the couple prepared a mortgage loan application stating that Teresa Giudice worked as a real estate agent and made $15,000 a month. In reality, authorities say she was not employed.
Back in July, they were charged in a 39-count indictment alleging mail and wire fraud.
In the earlier indictment, the couple was accused of exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their TV show debuted in 2009 and then hiding their fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired.
As CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported, the Giudices seemed uncharacteristically composed in court Tuesday.
“She was very nervous, very apprehensive, very scared. Uncharacteristic for her but never the less, she’s a strong woman, she’s a strong mother, a strong wife,” Teresa Giudice’s attorney Henry Klingeman said outside court.
Teresa Giudice released a statement saying she was taking “responsibility for a series of mistakes I made several years ago.”
“I have said throughout that I respect the legal process and thus I intend to address the Court directly at sentencing,” she 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.”
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 also allege the Giudices received about $4.6 million in mortgages, withdrawals from home equity lines of credit and construction loans.
Joe Giudice also failed to file tax returns from 2004 to 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.
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.
Prosecutors said the plea deal spared them from a lifetime behind bars if convicted in a trial, Smith reported. Instead, they face between two and four years in prison under the plea deal.
The Montville couple soared to fame in 2009 when they joined the cast of the hit Bravo show, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” With her big and strong personality, Teresa Giudice reportedly became one of the highest-paid people on the show and went on to pen lucrative books, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
Now the couple’s empire is threatened by the possibility of prison time and Joe Giudice, a resident of Italy, could face deportation.
“He didn’t even know that he was not a citizen. He’s here legally, of course. Everybody in his family including Teresa and the children are citizens,” Joe Giudice’s lawyer Miles Feinstein said.
“I think it would be a grave injustice for him to be deported, he’s not a man of violence,” Feinstein added. “It would just be inhumane to the children and Teresa for him to be deported.”
Fellow castmate Jacqueline Laurita took to Twitter to show her support.
“Praying for a dear old friend and her family today,” she tweeted.
In accepting a plea deal, prosecutors required Teresa and Joe Giudice to plea together, meaning one could not opt out of the plea.
Their attorneys said they will fight for a probation sentence at home so the couple will be able to care for their four young children. But federal prosecutors said it’s unlikely this star-studded pair will avoid the new reality, Smith reported.
Teresa and Joe Giudice will be sentenced on July 8.
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