NEWARK The two reality TV stars kept to the script.
They said nothing.
Appearing in a crowded courtroom before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark Teresa and Joe Giudice whose lives are featured in the hit Bravo television series Real Housewives of New Jersey both entered not guilty pleas Wednesday as they were arraigned on a litany of federal fraud charges that could send them to prison for years.
Both sat silently while their attorneys spoke for them during a proceeding that lasted less than five minutes. Teresa Giudice looked downward as Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Romankow outlined the charges in the 39 count indictment against them. Her husband seated to her right stared straight ahead.
The judge set a preliminary trial date of Oct. 8 although that date is expected to slip because of the complexity of the case.
The Giudices are charged with conspiring to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in mortgages and other loans that apparently helped finance a lavish lifestyle while hiding significant assets and income during a two year bankruptcy proceeding.
Separately Joe Giudice 43 is accused of failing to file tax returns from 2004 to 2008 on nearly $1 million of income. And in a separate state case he also faces charges of falsely obtaining a driver s license.
He could be deported to Italy if found guilty on any one of the federal or state charges. A criminal conviction of an immigrant even one living legally in the country carries with it the threat of deportation. Giudice identified in the indictment as Giuseppe came to this country with his parents as a 1 year old child but never became a U.S. citizen.
With hands locked together and their heads turned away from a crush of media as they entered the courthouse for their arraignment Wednesday afternoon the couple ignored a series of shouted questions and screams from a contingent of fans.
Teresa Giudice 41 her black hair pinned back in a bun sported a beige suit a white blouse and a serious expression losing the smile she flashed last month when she came to court for her initial appearance after her indictment.
Her husband who had shoved a TV cameraman out of his way at their last appearance this time kept his hands to himself.
Key players in a television series about an extended family that never seems to stop fighting with each other the couple resides in a 10 000 square foot house in the Towaco section of Montville that features six bedrooms a gourmet kitchen and a master bath with a fireplace.
Teresa Giudice who parlayed her TV fame into a specialty food line and a series of best selling cookbooks is portrayed on the show as a loud mouthed woman with expensive tastes spending lavishly on furniture clothes and toys for their four daughters.
But in October 2009 citing $10.85 million in debt Giudice and her husband filed for bankruptcy just as their TV careers began to take off a decision that has since come to haunt them with allegations they tried to conceal assets including three vehicles a boat and a $280 000 advance for Teresa Guidice s best selling cookbook Skinny Italian.
While the bankruptcy petition was later withdrawn the U.S. Attorney s Office began an investigation. According to federal prosecutors the couple lied to banks the IRS and the bankruptcy court telling lenders they were earning income that did not exist while not telling the government that about the money they were receiving as their success grew.
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For example the indictment alleges Teresa Giudice falsely claimed on a $121 500 mortgage application in September 2001 that she worked for four years for Modern Era Investment Corp. earning $3 750 a month at a time when she was actually unemployed. She submitted fake W 2 forms and phony pay stubs to the bank in support of the loan according to the indictment.
The indictment also alleges Joe Giudice obtained fraudulent construction loans of nearly $2 million. The Giudices were additionally charged with intentionally concealing businesses they owned income they received from a rental property and Teresa Giudice s true income from the television show as well as website sales and personal and magazine appearances.
Attorney Henry Klingeman of Newark who represents Teresa Guidice said she had a strong defense and raised the possibility the defense might seek footage from the Bravo network as part of its case. He also suggested the couple was being targeted.
The government s making an example of them Klingeman said. It will be a challenge to pick a jury that hasn t already formed a conclusion about her.
Her husband s attorney Miles Feinstein said neither have plans to lie low during the criminal trial.
We have told them to continue life as they ve lived it. They have a family they have to support themselves Feinstein said noting that both Joe and Teresa will appear live on this season s reunion episode of Real Housewives.
Both remain free on $500 000 unsecured appearance bonds.
Last night Teresa Giudice appeared at Posche Boutique in Wayne to sign copies of a cookbook she authored.
Giudice smiled and waved at roughly 50 fans waiting in line to take photos with her. Some wore shirts with Giudice s face and the words Free Tre in large lettering.
Star Ledger staff writers James Queally Janelle Griffith and Jessica Calefati contributed to this report.