While Teresa Giudice may have pleaded guilty to bank and wire fraud charges in connection to a long-running financial conspiracy with husband Joe Giudice, her former attorney Jim Kridel – who represented the couple back in 2010 in their original bankruptcy case – says it’s possible she may have committed the crimes unknowingly.
“I did not believe that Teresa was all that knowledgeable about any of the finances of her family until ultimately she became the breadwinner,” Kridel tells PEOPLE.
“Everyone seems to blame her that she knew or should have known. I don’t find that to be true in real life, though,” he says. “People come in and sign tax returns quite often, and the spouse who is not in charge of the finances has no information. They just do what the accountant tells them.”
“I mean this was a long time ago,” Teresa told Cohen when asked about her involvement in the case. “Whatever Joe told me to sign, I signed.”
While the couple have appeared on the RHONJ reality show since 2008, Kridel says being in the spotlight may have ultimately hurt them when it came to their legal case.
“Whenever the person is a celebrity, they’re a target,” he says. “The public attention does not help and that definitely affected the ultimate sentence.”
• Reporting by CHARLOTTE TRIGGS