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'Real Housewives of New Jersey' couple admit to financial fraud

Teresa Giudice, 41, (R) and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice, 43, (L) arrive at the Federal Court in Newark, New Jersey, March 4, 2014. RE
Teresa Giudice, 41, (R) and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice, 43, (L) arrive at the Federal Court in Newark, New Jersey, March 4, 2014. RE

By David Jones

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Husband-and-wife cast members of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" reality television show pleaded guilty on Tuesday to mail and wire fraud conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud stemming from what prosecutors said was years of hiding income and lying to obtain financial loans.

Teresa Giudice, 41, and her husband, Giuseppe - or Joe - Giudice, 43, face prison sentences and fines after pleading guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas in federal court in Newark.

Prosecutors said Teresa faces up to 27 months in prison, while her husband faces up to nearly four years, and possible deportation, because he is an Italian citizen.

The Giudices have appeared in five seasons of the reality show on the Bravo channel, where they reveled in their luxury lifestyle and spent lavishly on their children and themselves.

In the first episode, Teresa Giudice paid $120,000 in cash to furnish a room in their house styled after a French chateau.

The husband and wife, of Towaco, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and to three counts of bankruptcy fraud.

"Today I took responsibility for a series of mistakes I made several years ago," Teresa Giudice said in a statement read by her attorney, Henry Klingeman. "I am heartbroken that this is affecting my family, especially my four young daughters, who mean more to me than anything in the world."

Under the plea deals, the Giudices must forfeit money that they obtained in the frauds, and that amount will be decided at sentencing, which is scheduled for July 8. Teresa Giudice also will be required to pay $200,000 at sentencing.

Her husband pleaded guilty as well to failure to file tax returns on income totaling nearly $1 million.

"Teresa and Giuseppe Giudice used deception and fraud to cheat banks, bankruptcy court and the IRS," said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

In their plea deals, the couple admitted that from 2001 through 2008, they submitted fraudulent applications for mortgages and other loans, falsely claiming to have substantial salaries.

In September 2001, Teresa Giudice applied for a $121,500 mortgage by falsely claiming she worked as an executive assistant and submitting fake W-2 forms and fake pay stubs, prosecutors said.

In 2005, for a $361,250 mortgage, she falsely claimed to be working as a real estate agent making $15,000 a month, when in truth she was unemployed, they said.

In 2009, they filed for bankruptcy protection, concealing businesses they owned, income from rental property, and Teresa Giudice's income from the "Housewives" show, prosecutors said.

The couple had faced some 41 criminal counts in indictments handed down last year, with the possibility of some 175 years in prison.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna Dickson)

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