Fraud charges indicate lavish ‘Housewives’ life was only a facade

On TV they live large — in a 10,000-square-foot McMansion full of garish baubles and expensive toys in an ode to the bad taste and excessive spending that has made “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” a Bravo hit.

It’s the lifestyle Joe and Teresa Giudice — who grew up together as working-class Italian-American kids — always hungered for but could never truly afford, sources said, even when they convinced themselves and everyone around them they could.

The Giudices’ shaky facade of massive personal wealth — increasingly fragile since a 2009 Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing — finally imploded in a spectacular way last week when they were hit with a 39-count criminal fraud indictment.

Joe and  Teresa Giudicein 2010. The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Documents showed the Giudices were in hock for at least $  10 million — to banks, credit card companies, lawyers, construction businesses, even an in-vitro fertilization clinic.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Joe and  Teresa Giudicein 2010. The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Documents showed the Giudices were in hock for at least $ 10 million — to banks, credit card companies, lawyers, construction businesses, even an in-vitro fertilization clinic.

The federal charges range from allegations that the two conspired to forge W-2 forms, tax returns, pay stubs and other documents to trick banks into lending them money, to accusations of perjury and false statements in their bankruptcy proceedings.

If convicted, Teresa, 41, and her husband Joe, 43, could each face up to 50 years in prison.

Joe, an Italian citizen, is also charged with not filing taxes for four years and faces state charges of using his brother’s identity to obtain a false driver’s license after he lost his to a DWI.

In the federal indictment filed this week, authorities accused Teresa of lying and hiding her true income from Bravo — rumored to be at least $  30,000 an episode — as well as income from her books, her Fabellini wines and other businesses.

Andrei Jackamets/Andrei Jackamets/Bravo

In the federal indictment filed this week, authorities accused Teresa of lying and hiding her true income from Bravo — rumored to be at least $ 30,000 an episode — as well as income from her books, her Fabellini wines and other businesses.

RELATED: BETHENNY FRANKEL: ‘I DON’T FEEL SORRY’ FOR TERESA GIUDICE

In true Teresa style, the Giudices faced their latest financial disaster head-on and with cameras rolling, standing side-by-side Wednesday in a New Jersey court as they listened to the charges against them.

After the hearing, the two fled and holed up in the house of Joe’s parents — as his father mooned reporters who followed them.

The Guidices' home in Towaco, N.J.

Norman Y. Lono/for New York Daily News

The Guidices’ home in Towaco, N.J.

The family kept a low profile for a few days, but Teresa remembered to feed her fans with a few upbeat pictures of her and her four young girls on a Hamptons beach Friday.

“Hanging at the beach with @lexmanzo girls having a great time with her,” Teresa tweeted, referring to the daughter of one of her friends.

“Hamptons visit with my girls,” she wrote in another tweet, with the hashtag #greatfriends and a picture of her looking relaxed and windswept next to Dina Manzo, a former “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast member, and another pal.

Teresa Guidice posing for a photo after cooking at her home in Towaco, New Jersey on June 8, 2011.

Xanthos,Julia, New York Daily News/Xanthos, Julia, New York Daily News

Teresa Guidice posing for a photo after cooking at her home in Towaco, New Jersey on June 8, 2011.

Despite Teresa’s brave face, the timing of the financial meltdown couldn’t have been worse for the mother of four, who after years of struggling had finally hit the sweet spot of cashing in on her fame.

RELATED: TERESA GIUDICE FACES REALITY SHOW CANCELLATION: SOURCES

The dark-haired, table-flipping, word-mangling stay-at-home mom somehow managed to parlay her lowbrow Italian schtick into a burgeoning brand, commanding advances of nearly $ 300,000 for her best-selling cookbooks and putting her name on a host of other products.

If convicted, Teresa, 41, and her husband Joe, 43, could each face up to 50 years in prison.

twitter.com/Teresa_Giudice/twitter.com/Teresa_Giudice

If convicted, Teresa, 41, and her husband Joe, 43, could each face up to 50 years in prison.

Her unpolished presentation and love of all things over-the-top and tacky seemed to hit a chord with many fans, who only chuckled when Teresa said things like “ingredientses” while touting her homemade Italian cooking.

Her recent role as the family breadwinner was not lost on “RHONJ” viewers, who’ve watched Joe Giudice struggle over four seasons since 2009 to keep his failing business ventures afloat while his wife suddenly developed a Midas touch.

“Without her, Joe would be living on the streets right now. He’d be homeless,” said one source with knowledge of the family.

Teresa Giudice has cooked up a career as a chef and penned a cookbook, but hubby Joe reportedly has struggled to make lots of dough.

twitter.com/Teresa_Giudice/twitter.com/Teresa_Giudice

Teresa Giudice has cooked up a career as a chef and penned a cookbook, but hubby Joe reportedly has struggled to make lots of dough.

Some frustrated fans have wondered why Teresa is so loyal to her “Juicy Joe,” who in recent episodes seemed to be cheating on her as well as dragging her down financially.

Even her fellow Housewives have asked that question — with some believing Joe’s the guiltier party.

RELATED: TERESA GIUDICE, HUSBAND JOE RELEASED ON $ 1 MILLION BOND

Teresa Guidice (left) in a recent Twitter pic taken in the Hamptons with pals Dina Manzo and Pam Colacino

Twitter

Teresa Guidice (left) in a recent Twitter pic taken in the Hamptons with pals Dina Manzo and Pam Colacino

“My heart goes out to Teresa and her family. I am sure she will be vindicated, especially with Teresa saying on the record she didn’t sign many of the applications presented to her, and Joe telling the court he signed her name,” said Penny Drossos Karagiorgis, owner of Le Chateau Allure salon in Englewood, scene of many “Housewives” meetings.

But according to a source who knows the couple, Teresa is as invested as Joe in keeping up appearances at all costs — especially once she finally started making real moolah.

“Not many people know that the two of them grew up together,” said the second source.

Who's happy now? A photo Teresa Giudice posted to Twitter.

twitter.com/Teresa_Giudice/twitter.com/Teresa_Giudice

Who’s happy now? A photo Teresa Giudice posted to Twitter.

Joe, born in Saronno, Italy and brought to Paterson, N.J. by his parents when he was a 1-year-old, “has known Teresa since she was in diapers,” the source said.

The two grew up in working-class immigrant families — her dad ran a shoe repair business while Joe’s dad did light construction and ran an Italian social cafe that’s still open today.

Teresa went from high school to study fashion marketing at Berkeley College, while Joe, who attended a technical school, got his GED.

A young Teresa Giudice poses with her parents and brother Joe Gorga. The Italian immigrants led humble hardworking lives.

Twitter

A young Teresa Giudice poses with her parents and brother Joe Gorga. The Italian immigrants led humble hardworking lives.

RELATED: TERESA GIUDICE, HUSBAND JOE GIUDICE CHARGED WITH FRAUD

Bravo’s bio of Teresa says she worked as a buyer for Macy’s, but in actuality she worked the department store counter for a few weeks, said the source connected to the couple.

Joe, painted on Bravo to be a major real-estate developer, is actually a “small-time construction worker who does mostly residential, handyman stuff,” said the source.

Teresa and Joe Giudice's second home on the Jersey Shore town of Beach Haven West.

Jason Winslow / Splash News/Jason Winslow / Splash News

Teresa and Joe Giudice’s second home on the Jersey Shore town of Beach Haven West.

Before Teresa got on “Real Housewives” in 2009, the source said, the Giudices lived in a modest house near Paterson.

“Their house was nothing like what you see on TV — it was small, with linoleum tiles on the kitchen floor,” the source said.

Bravo agreed to bring her on after she was championed by fellow Housewives Jacqueline Laurita and the Manzo sisters, Dina and Caroline, the source said.

At the time, Teresa and Joe were building their monstrous McMansion — and that was the only house the Giudices allowed the public to see.

PHOTOS: CELEBRITY FIT CLUB: HOW THE STARS STAY IN SHAPE

While they pretended their wallets were full, in reality, according to the federal indictment against them, Teresa and Joe had for most of their marriage taken elaborate steps to trick banks and other creditors into lending them money.

Like a shell game, the couple borrowed from one to pay another, and when that money ran out, they borrowed some more.

The first hint of real problems came in late 2009, when Joe and Teresa filed for bankruptcy. Documents showed the Giudices were in hock for at least $ 10 million — to banks, credit card companies, lawyers, construction businesses, even an in-vitro fertilization clinic.

At that time, the couple claimed in their documents, Joe was pulling in $ 3,250 a month plus $ 10,000 in loans from his family while Teresa’s only income was $ 3,333 a month from Bravo.

In the federal indictment filed this week, authorities accused Teresa of lying and hiding her true income from Bravo — rumored to be at least $ 30,000 an episode — as well as income from her books, her Fabellini wines and other businesses.

Teresa and her cash-strapped husband are both expected to enter not guilty pleas at the next hearing Aug. 14, said Joe’s lawyer Miles Feinstein.

“They’re good parents and also good people, but they just wanted more than they could have,” the source said.

With Scott Browne

gotis@nydailynews.com


Daily News – Gossip

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