Fifty years is a long, long time. Real Housewives of New Jersey couple Joe and Teresa Giudice are ending July with a very big, very bad bang, following Monday's shocking news that the pair have been indicted on 39 counts of fraud and tax charges. With their financial problems already well known, Teresa, 41, and Joe, 43, were charged (by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman) with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud.
Due in court the morning of Tuesday, July 30 before the federal magistrate, both will plead not guilty, their respective attorneys told Us Weekly. Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, while bank fraud carries a maximum of 30 years, and the remaining charges could mean more prison time as well as sizable fines.
"They're supporting each other and always will. We're going to meet these charges and fight them," Miles Feinstein, Joe Giudice's lawyer, tells Us. "I think that everyone here is certainly scared of jail time but they are presumed to be innocent and they have maintained their innocence."
Should the pair -- parents to four young daughters -- be found guilty, how much prison time could they realistically serve?
"There are countless factors that could impact their actual sentences, but the risk of serving time is real, especially if they go to trial and lose." John J. Carney, a former federal prosecutor specializing in economic crime, tells Us. (Joe was previously indicted for fraudulently using his brother's ID to acquire a false driver's license.)
Continues Carney: "As with any defendant, repeat offenses raise the likelihood of a longer sentence. This was clearly a complicated investigation that stretches back years and required significant investigative resources. This can't come as a surprise."
The expert advises the Bravo stars -- who've been famously combative with others on the show -- to keep it cool. "While they can't change the past, the key for both of them is how they respond to the charges. They're both have great defense counsel, but will they take their advice? Drama will not play well in a federal courtroom."
While each case is different, Carney estimates, "in similar cases 18 to 36 months is possible."