“Real Housewives of New Jersey” stars Teresa and Joe Giudice pleaded not guilty to multiple federal fraud charges in Newark Wednesday, Access Hollywood wrote. The Bravo stars entered their pleas through their attorneys. The Giudices are facing a 39-count indictment including bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and making false statements on loan applications.
Many “RHONJ” fans are wondering if the Giudices are being picked on because they’re celebrities, and whether they really will go to prison for 50 years if convicted. White-collar crime expert Al Mendez, director of the White Collar Criminal Law and Governmental Investigations Practice at Abrams Fensterman in New York City, answered some of the most popular questions regarding the Bravo stars' case in a phone interview.
Mendez started out by saying he could not “speak directly” about the case, but said the charges against the reality stars must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” by the federal court.
If convicted, Mendez said it’s possible the Giudices could be sentenced to 50 years in prison, but that it wasn’t definite. Each charge against the Giudices carries its own sentence, but that doesn’t mean the judge will decide to make the couple serve each one consecutively as opposed to concurrently. Adding up prison sentences “is not a reality in the federal system,” he said.
Each charge carries a certain amount of points, which is equated to the amount of jail time. In the past it was mandatory for judges to use this system when sentencing a guilty party, but now the points are seen as a guideline. “The judge might deviate from the advisory guidelines and their sentence could be less,” he said, and added that the number “50” is something that looks good in press releases. “Sentencing is tricky and sophisticated in the federal courts,” the legal expert said.
There’s been a rumor floating around the Web that Teresa could avoid time in the slammer if she divorced Joe and testified against him, but Mendez said that wouldn’t help her if she’s found guilty. “She’s been charged with conspiracy,” he said. They are accused of agreeing to commit fraud, so spousal privilege would extend even through a divorce since they were together at the time.
Teresa won’t go down just because of her husband; that is if the government can prove she had intent to commit fraud. “Intent is a key element the government has to prove beyond reasonable doubt to convict someone,” the legal expert stated.
It was recently revealed that Joe is not a U.S. citizen, which could end up with him being deported back to Italy, Mendez said.