In a stunning turn of events, Joe Giudice withdrew his bankruptcy petition, apparently after seeing there is a fair to even chance he and possibly wife Teresa Giudice would be convicted during their bankruptcy fraud trial, scheduled for October 13. The Real Housewives of New Jersey cast members were known for an extravagant lifestyle, while barely able to keep the creditors off the front lawn.
Better to pay creditors $11 million than go to jail, eh, Juicy?
From the New Jersey Star Ledger
Never mind! “Real Housewives of New Jersey” husband Joe Giudice — “Juicy Joe” to wife Teresa — abandoned his quest to have his millions of dollars of debts forgiven in federal bankruptcy court.
He made the about-face after invoking the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when questioned by the trustee for his creditors about assets, income and business interests he is accused of hiding from the court, according to court papers obtained by The Star-Ledger this week.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Morris Stern signed off on a settlement between Giudice and the trustee, John Sywilok. The agreement does not apply to Teresa Giudice, who is still pursuing a discharge of her debts.
According to the court order, Giudice consulted with a criminal defense lawyer before taking the Fifth. “The defendant Giuseppe Giudice acknowledges his desire to resolve the matter without the need for further inquiry or litigation, and without making any further admissions,” the court papers read.
Generally, if a trustee discovers that a debtor is concealing assets or income, he or she would make a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the bankruptcy fraud unit of the U.S. Trustee Program, said Millburn bankruptcy lawyer Leonard C. Walczyk. “They are really cracking down on bankruptcy fraud,” he said. “It is a real hot issue.”
Sywilok and James Kridel, the Guidice’s attorney, did not return calls for comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, which prosecutes criminal bankruptcy fraud, said the office does not, as a rule, confirm or deny ongoing investigations.
Soon after, Sywilok filed a lawsuit opposing debt discharge for the couple, claiming they tried to conceal assets, including three vehicles, a boat, and properties in Hillside that house the family pizzeria, a laundromat and apartments.
(Not long after the couple filed for bankruptcy, television crews taped Joe Giudice taking his wife on a tour of one of the modest apartments, joking that they might have to live there after they’re tossed out of their mansion.)
The couple also hid income, Sywilok alleged, including two advances totaling $280,000 advance for Teresa Giudice’s cookbook “Skinny Italian” — it was a bestseller, and she has since released a follow-up — and her monthly “Housewives” salary of $7,083 from “Housewives” production company Sirens Media.
In the third season, filmed last fall and currently airing, Teresa Giudice admits that money has been tight — in the most recent episode, the camera panned to the 99-cent sticker on a package of paper plates at daughter Milania’s decidedly downscale pizza party — but she is still shown shopping and padding about her ostentatiously detailed but conspicuously underfurnished mansion.
Teresa Giudice’s bankruptcy case is still working its way through the court system, and the court order stipulates that Sywilock is still opposing her discharge of debt. According to bankruptcy lawyer Ronald LeVine of Hackensack, Joe Giudice would still be responsible for their joint debts even if a judge absolves Teresa Giudice’s liability.
Joe Giudice’s sudden fame has made every false step a public one. He racked up a DUI last year and served 10 days in jail for driving with a suspended license, and was arrested earlier this year on charges he fraudulently obtained New Jersey driver’s license because his own was suspended. That case has not yet gone to the grand jury, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
In January, federal bankruptcy judge Stern sided with Giudice’s former business partner, who wanted a $260,000 debt excluded from the bankruptcy after Giudice allegedly forged his name to some mortgage discharge papers.
“The extraordinary web of lies and misrepresentations woven by Giudice to implement and cover his misconduct reflects on his approach to business matters,” Stern wrote in his opinion, “and suggests his disregard for legal restraints which would bind others.”
Note that Teresa Giudice continues to pursue her bankruptcy petition. I’ll take the Louboutin high-heeled black boots she wore in a recent episode off her hands. Just tryin’ to help a sister out.
Season 4 is currently filming, No word if Bravo cameras were outside the courtroom.