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NJ 'Real Housewives' star, husband plead guilty to bankruptcy fraud, could be imprisoned

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NEWARK, N.J. - A "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star and her husband face prison time after they pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal fraud charges for concealing income and lying during bankruptcy proceedings.

In contrast to their often raucous on-screen personas, Teresa and Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice stood solemnly in front of U.S. Magistrate Esther Salas in Newark, speaking in barely audible tones as they admitted engaging in financial fraud.

Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and three types of bankruptcy fraud. Joe Giudice also pleaded guilty to failing to file a tax return for 2004, though he acknowledged he didn't file taxes on income of approximately $1 million between 2004 and 2008.

They had been scheduled for trial on more than 40 counts and had unsuccessfully sought separate trials.

Teresa Giudice said in a statement read by her lawyer, Henry Klingeman, that she takes responsibility "for a series of mistakes I made several years ago" and said she will make a statement to the court when the couple is sentenced on July 8.

"I will describe the choices I made, continue to take responsibility for my decisions and express my remorse to Judge Salas and the public," she wrote. "I am heartbroken that this is affecting my family — especially my four young daughters, who mean more to me than anything in the world."

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Joe Giudice faces a potential sentence of 37 to 46 months and Teresa Giudice could get 21 to 27 months, though Salas could deviate up or down from those ranges. Klingeman said after Tuesday's hearing that his client will seek probation.

Joe Giudice is an Italian citizen and could be deported upon completion of his prison term, said his attorney, Miles Feinstein. Giudice came to the U.S. as an infant and wasn't aware that he wasn't an American citizen, Feinstein said.

"It would be a grave injustice, and inhumane, for him to be deported," Feinstein said.

The couple was charged last year with exaggerating their income while applying for loans before their show debuted in 2009, then hiding their fortunes in a bankruptcy filing after their first season aired. The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and claimed they owed $11 million, including $2.2 million in mortgages, $13,000 to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom and nearly $12,000 to a fertility clinic, according to court documents.

On Tuesday, they admitted submitting fraudulent mortgage and loan applications and fabricating tax returns and W-2 forms.

Teresa Giudice has parlayed her fame into cookbooks and specialty food, drink and hair care product lines. On the show, she is known for her expensive tastes and combative relationship with her brother and sister-in-law. She has continued to work on the show while she has been under indictment and plans to continue until her sentencing, Klingeman said.

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