‘Real Housewives’ star’s lawyer husband held in civil contempt because he couldn’t explain what happened to $2 million meant for plane crash victims’ families
- Erika Jayne's husband Tom Girardi is being held in civil contempt after a lawsuit accused him of embezzling money from the "widows and orphans" of a 2018 plane crash, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
- Girardi's law firm represented the families of multiple victims of the Lion Air plane crash. The suit claims he kept settlement funds from them to help fund his and Jayne's "lavish lifestyle."
- On Monday, US District Judge Thomas Durkin held Girardi in contempt after Girardi declined to explain why he couldn't pay the $2 million owed to four of his clients, per the Sun-Times.
- Jayne filed for divorce from Girardi after 21 years of marriage in November, citing "irreconcilable differences." The lawsuit claims that the couple's divorce is a "sham" to hide the embezzled money.
- Representatives for Girardi did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Erika Jayne's husband Tom Girardi was held in civil contempt on Monday after a lawsuit accused the personal injury attorney of embezzling settlement money owed to the "widows and orphans" of a 2018 plane crash, the Chicago Sun-Times' Jon Seidel reports.
"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star and Girardi made headlines in early December when class-action law firm Edelson PC alleged that the couple was using their divorce to hide money — used to fund their lavish lifestyle — that was meant for families of the victims of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.
The new Boeing 737 MAX plane crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after taking off from the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 passengers and crew onboard. Girardi's law firm Girardi Keese represented the families of multiple victims.
On Monday, US District Judge Thomas Durkin held Girardi in contempt after Girardi declined to explain why he couldn't pay the $2 million owed to four of his clients, according to the Sun-Times.
"These are widows and orphans," Durkin said, according to the Sun-Times. "Half a million dollars for any one of these families is a significant amount of money. Life changing, given the tragedy they went through."
Durkin asked Girardi to explain what happened to the money, the Sun-Times reports. His lawyer told the judge she had "advised him to decline that," according to the Sun-Times, and said Girardi would not be able to pay the $2 million figure.
The judge has also frozen Girardi and his firm's assets, per the Sun-Times. According to the same report, Girardi only spoke once during the Chicago hearing — which he attended via telephone — so that Durkin could hear his voice.
Durkin is now planning to refer Girardi's case to the US attorney's office, according to the Sun-Times.
Tom Girardi's business partners have also claimed that he used money owed to them for his own personal gain
Girardi's law-firm partner Robert Keese, in addition to business partners Robert Finnerty and Jill O'Callahan, allege that Girardi never paid them the $315,000 in income they were each owed from their joint venture, known as the 1126 Wilshire Partnership, and that they each lost $442,500 in equity, according to court documents viewed by Insider. Keese and his partners said they also each lost $442,500 in equity.
Representatives for Girardi, Keese, Finnerty, and O'Callahan did not immediately respond to Insider's requests when contacted through the Girardi Keese firm for comment.
Erika Jayne shocked 'Real Housewives' fans when she filed for divorce from Girardi last month
Jayne, 49, filed for divorce from Girardi, 81, in November after 21 years of marriage, citing "irreconcilable differences."
"This is not a step taken lightly or easily," Jayne told Us Weekly at the time. "I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together."
But Edelson PC's lawsuit, which was filed on December 2, alleges that the couple's divorce is a "sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom and Erika's money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm," according to court documents viewed by Insider.
The class-action firm claims that Boeing transferred confidential settlements to Girardi Keese following the plane crash, but that the funds were never distributed to the victims' families. The suit alleges that Girardi instead kept the money "for his own purposes and doled it out to his friends and family," including Jayne.
"At the heart of this deception is Defendant Girardi and his need to fund outrageous lifestyles for himself and his soon-to-be ex-wife Erika Jayne," the complaint continues. "Tom and Erika have reached celebrity status in the glitz-and-glam world of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. To keep up their celebrity status, Tom and Erika must project a public image of obscene wealth at all times, and at whatever the cost."
The complaint also claims that Girardi's firm is "on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds."
The lawsuit cites an interview Jayne gave to E! News in 2018, revealing that she spends $40,000 a month on her "look."
"Erika even performs a song called 'Exxpen$ive,' featuring the hook 'it's expensive to be me,'" the lawsuit adds.
Edelson PC declined to comment when reached by Insider.
Jayne and Girardi first met in the 1990s, while she was waitressing at a popular Hollywood restaurant
The pair started dating after a year of friendship and were engaged within six months, according to Us Weekly.
They tied the knot in January 1999. In 2015, Jayne joined the cast of the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills."
After news of the divorce filing broke, a source told Us Weekly that Jayne and Girardi often went "several months" without seeing each other.
"They would travel separately," the source said. "Tom gave Erika a very lavish lifestyle, and she enjoyed it. Erika has gained independence and confidence from being on 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.'"
Jayne told Andy Cohen in June 2017 that she and Girardi do not have a prenuptial agreement because "a prenup wouldn't stand in his way anyway."
"I'm married to a very powerful lawyer," she told the Bravo host. "So it doesn't matter whether you had one or you didn't, it's gonna be all Tom's way, I assure you."
Jayne has requested that Girardi provide spousal support in their divorce, and that he pay her legal fees. Girardi has since asked the court to termine Girardi's right to spousal support and requested that the reality star pay her own attorney's fees, according to court documents obtained by Page Six.
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