NEWARK, N.J. -- Husband-and-wife stars of the "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday to a host of financial fraud charges that, if they are convicted at trial, could send them to prison for years.
Teresa and Guiseppe "Joe" Giudice made their pleas in U.S. District Court after passing through a gauntlet of news media outside the courthouse. Two weeks ago before their initial court appearance a brief tussle had broken out between the couple and a horde of reporters and photographers, but on Wednesday marshals set up metal barriers to form a walkway into the building.
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The Giudices were charged last month in a 39-count indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud.
Neither defendant spoke before, during or after the five-minute court proceeding, and their pleas were entered by their respective attorneys. Teresa Giudice, dressed in a cream-colored pantsuit and with her hair in a bun, was scheduled to appear at a book signing in northern New Jersey later Wednesday to promote her cookbook, "Fabulicious: On The Grill," according to her official website.
"We have told them to continue life as they've lived it," Miles Feinstein, an attorney representing Joe Giudice, said. "They have contracts with Bravo and others, and they shouldn't imprison themselves."
U.S. District Judge Esther Salas set a trial date of Oct. 8, but attorney Henry Klingeman, representing Teresa Giudice, said he expected the trial to be pushed back into 2014 due to the number of charges and complex nature of the case. Joe Giudice also is facing charges in Passaic County that he used his brother's identity to obtain a driver's license, presenting his marriage and birth certificates, and that case could reach trial before the federal trial, Feinstein said.
The couple is accused of exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their show debuted in 2009, then hiding their fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired. They are also accused of submitting fraudulent mortgage and loan applications and fabricating tax returns and W2 forms. Prosecutors allege Joe Giudice also failed to file federal tax returns from 2004 to 2008.
Both face hundreds of years in prison and millions of dollars in fines if convicted and given consecutive sentences, but federal sentencing guidelines would likely greatly reduce the penalties.
The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009, claiming they owed $11 million, including $2.2 million in mortgages, $13,000 to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, and nearly $12,000 to a fertility clinic.
Teresa Giudice has parlayed her fame into cookbooks, a line of ready-made bellinis and "Skinny Italian," a specialty food line. On the show, she is known for her expensive tastes and combative relationship with her brother and sister-in-law. They have four children.
"She's concerned, but she's taking care of business, taking care of her children, getting ready for school," Klingeman said. "I'm confident we'll have a really strong defense. I'm confident in her."
Klingeman added that it would be a challenge to pick a jury "that hasn't formed a conclusion about her, good or bad," based on her television persona.