NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A star of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and her husband were each released on $500,000 bond after making initial court appearances Tuesday on federal fraud charges.
Teresa Giudice and her husband, Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice, were ordered to surrender their passports and restrict their travels to New Jersey and New York. Joe Giudice, an Italian citizen, could be deported if convicted.
The Giudices, who rose to celebrity status by showcasing their lavish lifestyle on the Bravo reality TV show, were indicted Monday on bank and bankruptcy fraud charges, among other counts.
Joe Giudice is also charged with failing to file tax returns from 2004 to 2008, when he is alleged to have earned nearly $1 million.
The couple is accused of exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their show debuted in 2009, then hiding their fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired.
The couple did not enter pleas during the brief appearance in a courtroom packed with media and spectators. Their arraignment was set for Aug. 14. Their attorneys said both will plead not guilty.
“The investigation went on for a pretty long time and we are confident we have enough evidence to convict the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said after the proceeding.
Both face hundreds of years in prison and millions of dollars in fines if convicted, but federal sentencing guidelines would greatly reduce the penalties, Fishman said.
Teresa Giudice’s attorney, Henry Klingeman, said he believes the government is prosecuting the couple because of their celebrity.
The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009, claiming they owed $11 million, including $2.2 million in mortgages, $13,000 to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, and nearly $12,000 to a fertility clinic.
Joe Giudice also is facing charges in Passaic County that he used his brother’s identity to obtain a driver’s license, presenting his marriage and birth certificates. He rejected a plea deal in April through his lawyer, Miles Feinstein.
“In Passaic County, where I represent him, I feel that because of his celebrity status he’s being treated differently than others are for the same offense,” said Feinstein, who did not comment on the federal case.
Teresa Giudice has parlayed her fame into cookbooks, a line of ready-made bellinis and “Skinny Italian,” a specialty food line.
On the show, she is known for her expensive tastes and combative relationship with her brother and sister-in-law. But Klingeman noted that the show helps support the couple and their four children.
“While it’s called reality TV,” Klingeman said, “I’m not sure everything you see on the show is real.”