[UPDATE] ‘Real Housewives’ Stars Teresa and Joe Giudice Charged With 39 Counts of Fraud. Are You Surprised? We’re Not.

'Real Housewives of New Jersey' stars Teresa and Joe Giudice have been charged with a whopping 39 counts of fraud. Get the scoop here.

Teresa Joe Giudice

UPDATE: After their court appearance in Newark this morning, Teresa and Joe were each released on $500,000 bail bonds. They were required to surrender their passports, and they’re not allowed to leave New York or New Jersey until their next hearing; the hearing is scheduled for August 14. Apparently it also came out during today’s court session that Joe, who was born in Italy, isn’t actually a legal US citizen. Yikes!

Here’s our original post:

Well, here’s something bright and cheery to start your morning with: Teresa and Joe Giudice of Real Housewives of New Jersey have been charged in a whopping 39-count federal indictment for so many types of fraud that it’s like a big ol’ fraudulent party up in here.

According to NJ.com, a grand jury handed down the indictment in Newark yesterday. Said New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney, Paul Fishman, when he announced the news, “The indictment returned today alleges the Giudices lied to the bankruptcy court, to the IRS, and to a number of banks. 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.” Yikes.

What does it all mean? Here’s the laundry list of the charges that Teresa and Joe have been slapped with, as well as what the maximum penalty is for each count (note, too, that for each type of charge, they’re getting hit with multiple counts, all of which add up to the aforementioned magical number of 39):

- Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud: Joe and Teresa gave lenders fraudulent mortgage and other loan applications and supporting documents. Maximum penalty for each count: 20 years in prison

-  Bank fraud and making false statements on loan applications: They also represented on their paperwork for those loans that they were employed and/or taking home substantial salaries when neither of these things was actually the case—or, in the words of TMZ, they overestimated their income to get more money on the loans they were applying for. How? Here’s an example: In September of 2001, Teresa applied for a mortgage loan of $121,5000. She submitted a loan application on which she falsely listed her employment information as an executive assistant—AND turned in fake W-2 forms and pay stubs. Maximum penalty for each count: 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

- Bankruptcy fraud: When the Giudices filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October of 2009, they were required as part of the filings to disclose to the United States Trustee things like their assets, liabilities, income, anticipated increase in income, and so on. However, they concealed business they owned, income they had coming in from a rental property, Teresa’s actual income from Real Housewives, and the increase in income they expected to see from season two of the show (which, at the time, had yet to air). Maximum penalty for each count: 5 years in prison.

- Failure to file income tax returns: Joe apparently kinda sorta didn’t file his taxes between 2004 and 2008, a time during which he earned close to a million smackeroos. Maximum penalty for each count: 1 year in prison.

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Although TMZ says that a rep for Bravo had no comment about the whole to-do, Teresa released a statement about an hour after the charges came down; but it’s… well, it’s kind of weird. She 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.”

Now, I understand that she’s trying as hard as possible NOT to say anything that could potentially be used against her in court—but does it sound to anyone else like she’s shoving it all off on Joe? I don’t happen to be blessed with the ability to arch one eyebrow, but if I was, I would be doing it right now. In any event, Teresa’s lawyer, Henry Klingeman, told NJ.com in an email, “Teresa will plead ‘not guilty.’ The judicial processs that begins today… is a search for the truth. As it moves forward, we look forward to vindicating her.”

Is it possible that they’re actually innocent? Of course; but let’s face it: None of us think they are—which is nuts when you stop to think about it. It’s more than a little bit wacky that the second we hear of something like this, our immediate reaction is not that they’re innocent until proven guilty, but rather that they’re guilty until proven innocent. It gets even more bizarre when you consider that the reason this is our reaction in the first place is because of what we know about them from the circus that is reality television: From what we actually see of them on the screen, to what we read about them in the tabloids, to what we know about the kind of person who is more than willing to put their entire lives on camera in the first place, we assume that they’re automatically guilty. The real sin of it is that we’re not surprised by the charges. At ALL.

It’s telling that Shantelle P. Kitchen, who carries the grand-sounding title of Special Agent in Charge of the IRS’ criminial division in Newark, said during the announcement, “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.” Contrary to its name, “reality culture” makes everything seem like a fantasy—but ultimately, not even celebrity can protect you from the results of your actions. Or at least, it shouldn’t.

The Giudices are set to appear in federal court before a U.S. magistrate judge in Newark this morning; we’ll keep our ear to the ground as it goes in case we hear anything new.

Tell us: Do you think Joe and Teresa are innocent or guilty? And are you surprised by the news in the first place?

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.

Photo Credit: StarTraks Photo

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