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Reality TV Star’s Legal Troubles Could Threaten Immigration Status

file0001366447736.jpgAn indictment filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charges a New Jersey couple, who are famous for their roles on the Bravo program “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” with multiple fraud-related offenses. United States v. Giudice, No. 2:13-cr-00495, indictment (D.N.J., Jul. 29, 2013). “Real Housewife” Teresa Giudice and her husband, Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice, are accused of defrauding multiple banks and mortgage lenders and committing fraud during a bankruptcy case. The husband is also charged with failing to file federal income tax returns for four years. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty, but the case may have further consequences for Mr. Giudice, who is reportedly not a U.S. citizen, but rather a citizen of Italy. A conviction for a fraud-related offense could result in his removal from the country, commonly known as deportation. The case highlights the sometimes tenuous grasp that immigrants have on their right to remain in this country, something that all immigrants, their families, and their employers should understand.

According to the DOJ’s indictment, the Giudices fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans, including mortgage and construction loans, between 2001 and 2008. They achieved this, the DOJ claims, by submitting fraudulent or falsified documents, such as tax returns and W-2 forms, which showed income or bank balances that did not exist. The indictment also alleges that the couple, during a bankruptcy case filed in 2009, concealed assets from the bankruptcy court and the trustee, and made false statements to the court and the trustee. Finally, the indictment accuses Mr. Giudice of failing to file federal income tax returns, despite allegedly having taxable income, for the calendar years 2004 through 2008. The indictment lists thirty-nine total counts, including bank fraud, loan application fraud, and bankruptcy fraud.

Federal immigration law identifies a range of criminal offenses for which a conviction would make an immigrant, including a lawful permanent resident, deportable. A conviction for a single count of a “crime of moral turpitude” can result in deportation, provided that the conviction occur within five years of the immigrant’s admission to the U.S., and that the underlying crime carry a possible sentence of one year or more. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(i). If an immigrant has more than one conviction for offenses involving moral turpitude, however, the government may seek to deport them no matter when the convictions occur. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii).

The U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual offers guidance for determining whether a particular criminal offense involves moral turpitude. It expressly identifies fraud as a crime of moral turpitude. 9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.2(1), N2.3-1(b)(8). Conviction on more than one of the charged fraud offenses could therefore result in deportation proceedings against Mr. Giudice.

The U.S. immigration system is complex, and it presents many challenges for individuals seeking to come to the U.S. or adjust their status to permanent residency. Certain events can threaten one’s chances for an immigration benefit, so the help of an experienced immigration attorney is critical. Samuel C. Berger practices in the New York and New Jersey areas, representing immigrants and prospective immigrants, U.S. citizens and residents petitioning for a family member, and employers who want to hire someone from abroad. Contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

Web Resources:

United States v. Giudice (PACER registration required), No. 2:13-cr-00495, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey
Indictment (PDF file), United States v. Giudice, No. 2:13-cr-00495, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, July 29, 2013
Notes, 40.21(a) Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (PDF file), Volume 9, Foreign Affairs Manual, U.S. Department of State
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