January 9, 2015
While most of us were settling back into the office this week, Teresa Giudice from the infamous reality TV show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” was settling in to her new home at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury. She’ll be trading the opulent, Italian-style divans inside her NJ mansion for a shabby, not-so-chic cot in a jail cell for the next 15 months (if she actually serves her full sentence).
According to the New York Daily News, Teresa and husband Joe were convicted of mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud. They took out millions in falsified mortgage and construction loans to support their lavish lifestyle. Joe was also convicted of tax fraud, since he failed to file a return in 2004 and admitted he didn’t pay taxes on some $1 million in income between 2004 and 2008.
At sentencing, Judge Esther Salas was infuriated by the Giudice’s lack of transparency in their pre-sentencing disclosure documents. Among the omissions the judge seemed to think had dubious justifications were the estimates of the family’s furnishings and jewelry. The courts and the IRS have increasingly sophisticated tools for identifying discrepancies in stated earnings and assets, but in this case a simple paperwork trail proved enough.
That’s because when declaring bankruptcy in 2009, the Giudices listed $60,000 in furnishings, but only $25,000 on sentencing day. Other recreational vehicles, cars and construction equipment seemed also to be missing from the probation office report that managed to make it to the Feds. When asked why no jewelry assets were reported, the Giudice’s lawyer said Teresa wore only the costume type.
Judge Esther Salas gave Teresa 15 of the maximum 27 months but allowed her to spend the holidays with family. The judge also allowed Teresa’s husband to begin his sentence after hers expressly to maintain a parent in the household for their four children.
For Joe the sentence is 41 months, but even then he may not be altogether free. Although he has lived in New Jersey for most of his life, he never became a U.S. citizen and will likely face deportation.
Albeit this couple offers an egregious example of misconduct, it goes to show the seriousness with which the courts take tax and bankruptcy fraud. Particularly if, as some believe, the judge in this instance was being lenient, whether owing to the couple’s fame or other reasoning.
Should Teresa miss the spotlight facilitated by Bravo, she can take heart knowing she’s staying at the prison made famous by the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.” The reality of it all is that she’s likely to be back in the limelight fast, though maybe not at her NJ home since it was put up for sale. Once she’s free to go, she may very well pick up her hair extensions on the way out and get back to the celebrity life.