Is Teresa Giudice's "Fabulicious" Lifestyle Built on Crime?

The Real Housewife's lavish ways may be funded by borrowed and stolen money, according to reports

It's pretty shocking that Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice is facing criminal charges for fraud. What's even more shocking is that her entire wealth -- with the exception of her cookbook profits -- may be built on lies.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, Teresa and Joe Giudice's lavish, free-spending lifestyle was entirely funded by borrowed and stolen money. Sources told the paper that Joe is a "small-time construction worker who does mostly residential, handyman stuff" -- not the real-estate developer that Bravo made him out to be. Prior to the show, the Giudices lived in small, ordinary house in a not-so-posh neighborhood. Their huge, tacky mansion was funded by elaborate money-borrowing schemes, which the Post describes as "a shell game" between various banks and creditors. (Maybe Joe and Teresa are actually smarter than we thought.)

Their financial situation caught up with them in 2009, when Joe and Teresa filed for bankruptcy and auctioned off many of their recent possessions. However, we now know that they fibbed about their income in the bankruptcy filing, which didn't mention Teresa's substantial income from Bravo, her cookbook profits, or her liquor line. When they suddenly withdrew their bankruptcy filing in 2011, federal investigators were tipped off that the couple was hiding something.

The reality stars are now facing a very harsh reality indeed: 30 counts each of financial fraud, including bankruptcy fraud, lying on mortgage applications, and failure to file tax returns. If convicted, they could face more than 50 combined years in prison, Joe could be deported to Italy (turns out he's not an American citizen!), and custody of their four daughters would likely go to, irony of ironies, Teresa's brother Joe Gorga and his wife Melissa. Perhaps the Bravo network should change its name to "Karma."

Teresa, for now, is pleading her innocence -- on social media as well as in court. Her lawyer has announced that she will plead "not guilty" and says he "looks forward to vindicating her." Teresa released a Twitter statement in support of her husband, then went on with life as usual, posting dozens of happy vacation pictures and re-tweeting messages from her fans.

Is she still in denial? Almost definitely. But denial seems to be a way of life when you're a Real Housewife. Teresa's co-star Jacqueline Laurita and her husband Chris Manzo have also been accused of fudging their finances, Richie Wakile has faced similar (but lesser) financial fraud charges, and the Gorgas are rumored to be behind on mortgage payments.

Donna Kaufman is a freelance writer and iVillage contributor. Find her on Twitter and Google+

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