Teresa Giudice Sues Former Bankruptcy Attorney, Blaming Him for Prison Sentence; He Says 'She Did This to Herself'
The imprisoned reality star is suing her bankruptcy attorney for failing to protect her in court, which her malpractice lawyer says cost Giudice 'her freedom'
Even though she is behind bars, Teresa Giudice is suing her bankruptcy attorney for steering her wrong in her legal proceedings, with her malpractice lawyer alleging that his “negligence” and “missteps” are the reason she is in prison.
In a statement to PEOPLE, her malpractice lawyer, Carlos Cuevas, says that her former bankruptcy attorney James Kridel’s “legal malpractice is the reason why she is incarcerated.”
Kridel represented The Real Housewives of New Jersey star in her bankruptcy case, which began in 2009, weeks after her daughter Audriana was born.
On Oct. 2, 2014, Giudice was sentenced to 15 months in prison after she and her husband Joe Giudice pleaded guilty to charges of bank, mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud.
The reality star is now serving her sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. She will be released from the prison in late December and will serve the rest of her sentence under home confinement.
Reached by PEOPLE, Kridel says, “She went to jail because she committed crimes, which were not participated in by me. She had about 2.5 hours of testimony before she went to jail where she took full responsibility for the crimes.
However, I suppose things have changed in her mind,” he tells PEOPLE. “I have read the transcript and the judge made it very clear that she had originally decided not to send her to jail, but because she had falsified her assets before the sentencing she decided to send her to jail.
“She was chastised by the judge well after I represented her. There were failures to file income taxes, which occurred many years before we knew her. Her falsifying W2’s for mortgages – that has nothing to do with her bankruptcy.
Vindicating Giudice s Good Name
On July 28, Cuevas filed a 53-page complaint in Morris County, New Jersey, Superior Court, alleging three causes of action against Kridel: legal malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
He filed the lawsuit on Giudice’s behalf “to vindicate [her] legal rights, her good name and reputation,” he says in the complaint.
Giudice is seeking to recover an unspecified amount of money from Kridel “because she has suffered significant monetary damages because of Defendant Kridel’s negligence,” Cuevas says in the complaint.
But, he continues, any damages she recovers from Kridel “cannot restore her freedom, her good name, her lost professional opportunities, or her agonizing, extended absence from her husband and children’s daily lives.”
Cuevas also says in the complaint that because of Kridel’s “failure” to perform his duties as a lawyer, Giudice “is now in a federal penitentiary and now a felon.”
“The very lawyer retained to prepare accurate bankruptcy documents literally led his client into the cross-hairs of federal prosecutors, and a prison cell,” Cuevas says. “This is a consequence of Defendant Kridel’s several material errors and the concealment of his malpractice.
“Defendant Kridel continuously filed documents that were materially inaccurate, but he permitted Plaintiff Giudice to sign declarations under penalty of perjury that the documents were accurate.”
He says in the complaint that Kridel’s failure to “adequately consult” with Giudice resulted in his “filing bankruptcy schedules and a statement of financial affairs with numerous material errors and omissions.”
Basic information, such as Giudice’s employment and income, were not included on the forms, Cuevas says in the complaint.
Other big omissions on the forms, according to Cuevas? Failure to include ownership of a Cadillac Escalade, the lease of a Maserati and rental income from a property Giudice and her husband own in Lincoln Park, New Jersey.
In the complaint, Cuevas points out that Kridel spoke to People.com on Oct. 8, 2014, saying, “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 says that bankruptcy probably brought attention on her, but this is something which has a lot to do with all of her comments on TV, showing off her huge mansion and the jewelry she wears and the cash she spends. She’s got to be subject to scrutiny. But it’s not as a consequence of anything that occurred in the bankruptcy petition.
“That’s what occurred on TV. Prosecutors watch TV and they draw their own conclusions. She wasn’t sent to jail for anything that occurred as a consequence of her coming to this office. She went to jail for things she did herself.
“We didn’t falsify a W2 for her, her tax returns, or not file them. These were supposed to be done by people other than us. To say that we participated is ridiculous. We tried to preclude them from selling her assets in a public sale. We were successful in representing her. I think we did everything we were supposed to do. I don’t think we did anything wrong.
During the bankruptcy proceedings, Kridel tells PEOPLE that the government notified him, saying that she had not filed tax returns for 10 years. Clearly we were not involved in that, he says. She well knew that, unless she was in a coma for 10 years. That triggered people to examine, if she didn’t have a tax return how did she get mortgages? This came out of the blue. We had wished her well.
Kridel adds: “She seems to go from attorney to attorney. I see some of the comments she makes from prison. If they refer to us, they’re ridiculous. All we did was try to help her. In a bankruptcy you have to sign a petition. And you say that everything in it is true and accurate. She signed it. Then you go to the meeting with the Chapter 7 trustee.
When meeting with the trustee, he says, “They ask, are the statements here true and accurate? Yes they are. After that she appeared at a deposition in bankruptcy court. Same questions asked. All of those sworn statements by her are now untrue? She was here on a regular basis. I am sorry this is what she thinks. She admitted under oath that she took full responsibility for these crimes. I guess now she wants to say that she didn’t commit them, somebody else did.”
In 2014, though, Kridel told PEOPLE that in the original bankruptcy case it’s possible she may have committed the crimes unknowingly.
“Everyone seems to blame her that she knew or should have known,” he said at the time. “I don’t find that to be true in real life, though. 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.”
Says Cuevas in the complaint about Kridel’s comments: “Defendant Kridel knew or should have known that Plaintiff Giudice was financially unsophisticated.”
In his statement to PEOPLE, Cuevas says that the reality star’s bankruptcy case “was the equivalent a medical malpractice case involving several botched operations in which the patient died.”
“From the outset it was apparent that Defendant Kridel lacked the requisite skill and experience to successfully perform the procedures,” the statement continues. “Each time Defendant Kridel performed a subsequent procedure the situation further deteriorated.
“Defendant Kridel concealed from Plaintiff Giudice the gravity of the situation and his egregious malpractice.”
Kridel, it goes on to say, “failed to disclose to Plaintiff Giudice his serious and numerous errors and omissions. Defendant Kridel failed advise Plaintiff Giudice that she immediately needed to retain other bankruptcy counsel and retain a criminal lawyer to rectify his egregious legal malpractice.”
Instead, the statement says, “Kridel stood silently and chose to bury his mistakes at Plaintiff Giudice s expense. The consequence of Defendant Kridel s horrific and unconscionable conduct is that Plaintiff Giudice is incarcerated.
“Ms. Giudice looks forward to her day in court.”