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Real Housewife Teresa Giudice Headed to Big House
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Real Housewife Teresa Giudice Headed to Big House

Summary: Teresa Giudice and her husband, Joe, were both sentenced to prison time for their part in a major multimillion dollar fraud that spanned several years.

Teresa Giudice, of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” fame, is headed to prison for fifteen months, NJ.com reports. Her husband, Joe, will serve over three years as well. The pair will be imprisoned for a fraud scheme that involved millions of dollars.

  
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U.S. District Judge Esther Salas staggered the couple’s sentences so that one parent would be able to stay home with their four daughters, whose ages range from 5 to 13. Teresa will serve her sentence first, and once she is released, Joe will serve his time.

Judge Salas admitted she considered sentencing Teresa to probation instead of prison time: “For a moment, I thought about probation. For a moment.” Later, she revealed, “I need to send a message that it isn’t who you are, how famous you are. If you do something wrong, there will be consequences to pay.”

Judge Salas appeared to be a bit sympathetic toward Teresa, noting that it was Joe who led the fraudulent scheme. Judge Salas called Teresa a “dedicated mother” and felt that she had demonstrated “genuine remorse” for her part in the fraud.

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Nevertheless, Judge Salas stated she was “greatly offended” by the lack of openness the couple showed in their asset disclosures to probation officers. The judge commented, “Confinement is absolutely necessary in this case. I don’t honestly believe you respect the law.”

Judge Salas was clearly angry during the proceeding over the couple’s “glaring” omissions and discrepancies in their pre-sentencing financial disclosure statement, a document that is required for sentencing hearings. The judge was also frustrated that Miles Feinstein, Joe’s attorney, could not confirm whether Joe had paid $224,000 in back taxes that are owed. This, she said, was “a direct affront to the court.”



Teresa will report to prison to start her sentence on January 5. The sentence is a year shorter than what she could have received under the plea deal reached with the prosecution. An emotional Teresa addressed the court before the sentence was announced.

“I’m so scared. I’m blessed, but today I am also humbled. I fully take responsibility for my actions. This is not how I was raised. I am more sorry than anyone will ever know.”

Joe received his sentence earlier that day. Joe was born in Italy and moved to the United States when he was just a year old. However, he never obtained citizenship and now many face deportation. Judge Salas stated that the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement informed the court that should they seek his deportation, they will wait until he completes his 41 month sentence.

Joe also spoke to the court, saying, “I stand here humiliated before the court and my family and society. I disgraced many people, including my wife and four daughters. I take full responsibility for my actions. I promise to be a better person.”

Fernstein, Joe’s attorney, spoke at length to Judge Salas, asking her to consider leniency since Joe owned up to his crimes to attempt to spare his wife. “That is the mark of a real man,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein told the court what a good person Joe truly is, and how Joe had been struggling since the death of his father, Frank, who died from a massive heart attack “in Joe’s arms.” Joe expressed little emotion throughout the sentencing, but wiped away tears at this point, using a tissue Teresa gave to him. Feinstein continued, “Nobody can say Joe Giudice is not a good and considerate son. He’s a low-key and loving individual. This is the real Joe. Not the ‘Housewives’ Joe.”

Feinstein also read a letter from Filomena, Joe’s mother, who was unable to appear due to health problems. The letter read, “My son needs a slap on the wrist, not to be taken away from his family.”

Judge Salas didn’t buy the “slap on the wrist” argument, later stating, “It’s not a slap on your wrist you need, Mr. Giudice. Uh-uh. You need to understand the laws of this country and that they need to be respected.”

Judge Salas later added, “I am not sure you respect the court. I am not sure you respect our laws. And I am not sure you understand yet what you did.” Joe’s sentence includes 12-months for failing to file tax returns in 2004, which will be served concurrently.

However, the judge stated that it was clear that Joe was loved, noting the dozens of letters that were submitted on his behalf to the court. This was part of her reasoning for not giving Joe the full recommended 46-month sentence. She said, “A sentence under the top end of the range would be appropriate, but I have to give you credit for the life you have lived, at least to the people you have loved.”

The judge wished Joe luck toward the end of the hearing. “What you did in this case doesn’t define you as a man…you have a lot to live for.”

The couple was facing many years in prison due to the 41 counts they were charged with—up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines. Sentencing guidelines recommended a 37- to 46-month sentence for Joe, and a 27-month sentence for Teresa.

The couple, from Montville, allowed to world to be a part of their lavish lifestyle on the Bravo show. Their financial problems and legal issues were followed by the media.

In 2009, the couple declared bankruptcy. Their petition claimed millions in debts, and the couple stated that the weak economy destroyed Joe’s real estate endeavors. However, the bankruptcy trustee questioned their failure to declare assets and income, which included rental properties and Teresa’s earnings from “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” When questioned about the inaccurate filing, Joe took the Fifth Amendment. The couple did not follow through with the bankruptcy filing, and still owe millions of dollars in debts.

Joe previously faced trouble with the law. In 2010, he was indicted for using his brother’s identification to obtain a driver’s license in New Jersey. Joe’s license was suspended because of a DUI. These charges carry over 10 years in prison. In July 2013, federal prosecutors filed bankruptcy fraud charges against the Giudices, and additionally claimed that the couple was part of a long-running conspiracy that began before the couple was ever on television. Prosecutors alleged that the couple would illegally obtain mortgages, lines of credit, and construction loans worth millions of dollars. These were acquired by the couple’s use of falsified W-2s and tax returns. In addition, prosecutors claimed that Joe did not pay income tax on close to $1 million dollars in earnings over a five-year period.

The couple maintained their innocence from the beginning. In her first interview after being indicted, Teresa told Bravo’s Andy Cohen, “We’re good people. I don’t understand why this is happening to us.” Teresa and Joe claimed that they were targeted due to their fame. However, the pair pleaded guilty to one count of mail and wire fraud, as well as three counts of bankruptcy fraud. Joe also pled guilty to one count of failing to file a tax return.

Photo credit: highlighthollywood.com



 

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