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Your guilty pleasure is now a real-life legal drama: Two stars from Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey" have been indicted on federal fraud charges.
Teresa Giudice and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice were charged Monday in a 39-count indictment with conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud -- mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, and making false statements on loan applications -- as well as bankruptcy fraud.
Though the Giudices are innocent until proven guilty, the lesson here is clear: You must always tell the truth when dealing with courts, paying taxes and applying for loans or mortgages.
Teresa, 41, and her husband, 43, were charged in an alleged conspiracy to defraud lenders and illegally obtain mortgages in a bankruptcy case, reports The Associated Press.
The couple allegedly did this by exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their TV show debuted in 2009, and then hiding their improving fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired.
Federal statutes don't directly reference "mortgage fraud," so it's generally prosecuted as wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy. Mortgage fraud is often committed by submitting false supporting documents.
As part of the alleged ruse, Teresa falsely claimed she worked as an executive assistant, and even went as far as submitting fake W-2 forms and fake paystubs, according to the indictment.
Making phony claims about your employment status or salary on mortgage and loan applications is a serious offense. If convicted of bank fraud and loan application fraud, the Giudices could each face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
A classic celebrity charge, the indictment also accuses Joe Giudice of failure to file tax returns from 2004 through 2008, a period when he allegedly earned nearly $1 million, reports the AP.
When you make an honest mistake, it's negligence. Tax fraud, on the other hand, occurs when someone doesn't pay federal taxes on purpose.
Joe Giudice's situation smells tax-fishy. His income allegedly fluctuated wildly during that four-year period. The indictment states he made $323,481 in 2005 -- but just $26,194 in 2006.
The Giudices were released on $500,000 bond each, after making initial court appearances Tuesday.
As Bravo likes to say: "Watch What Happens."
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.