There is no question that if you are going to file bankruptcy and claim you own nothing and earn a pittance, don't brag about your assets and income on television! There is no better example of this than what has been much in the news recently about New Jersey reality TV stars Giuseppe ("Joe") and Terese Giudice on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, who filed bankruptcy in October of 2009.

Blaming the bad economy, they still proceeded to talk on camera about spending lavishly on clothes, toys for their daughters, a christening, and a family trip to Italy. One such episode showed Joe Giudice taking his wife on a tour of one of the modest apartments, joking that they might have to live there after they’re tossed out of their mansion!

They Always Get Caught!

Not surprisingly, this came to the attention of their bankruptcy trustee, John Sywilok, who filed a lawsuit opposing debt discharge for the couple. The suit claimed that they tried to conceal assets, including three vehicles, a boat, and properties in Hillside that house the family pizzeria, a laundromat and apartments.

But that's not all! They also hid income, including two advances totaling $280,000 for Teresa Giudice’s cookbook “Skinny Italian” along with her monthly salary of $7,083 for the reality show.

All sorts of bad things can happen to you if you try to hide assets or income in a bankruptcy, including going to jail and losing your bankruptcy discharge. This is why, in an effort to avoid the former, Joe Giudice is agreeing to the latter, after invoking the Fifth Amendment when confronted by the trustee. He will be walking away a free man, but still owing millions of dollars to creditors that he will never get rid of.

His wife Terese, although not subject to this, is still in hot water. The trustee is still opposing her discharge, and her case is still pending going on three years after it was filed.

They're Not the Only Stupid Ones!

Considering all of the bad consequences, it never ceases to amaze me how people think they can pull a fast one in bankruptcy, get rid of their debt, and still keep all of their possessions. This they do often with the greatest stupidity and arrogance!

That is how Richard Hatch, the first winner on the Survivor series, ended up in jail for tax evasion. He never declared the $1 million prize on his tax return, even though he was filmed receiving the check! Lenny Dykstra is facing charges of bankruptcy fraud!

Lesson to Be Learned

The only way to get a fresh start through bankruptcy is by being completely open and honest. Disclose everything and take whatever consequences come your way. Whatever they are, losing your home, an inheritance, or any number of prized possessions, they still beat going to jail and facing the prospect of owing a crushing amount of debt for the rest of your life!

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.
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