This week, Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne was told to stop selling her designer clothes online, as part of an attempt to recover almost $2 million in missing funds owed to the families of victims of a deadly plane crash.
If you need to read that sentence again in order to parse it, then I don’t blame you, as it’s only the latest development in what has proved to be the weirdest and wildest scandal in the history of the show, which includes accusations of fraud, embezzlement and a sham divorce.
How the hell did things get to this point, and what exactly are Erika Jayne and her husband Tom Girardi accused of? If you’re confused, then what follows is a quick primer about the couple’s legal troubles and the current state of their finances.
First things first, who are these people?
Erika Jayne met future husband Tom Girardi in the late 1990s – she was a waitress at the fancy restaurant Chasen’s, while he was a high-powered lawyer, who built his career on defending the little guy, and inspired a character in Erin Brockovich. She was 28, and he was 60.
The two married in 1999, and he continued raking in the dough while she styled herself as a lawyer’s wife and pop singer. She joined the cast of Real Housewives in 2015, and became an immediate fan-favourite, known for her opulent lifestyle, spending a cool $40k a month on her glam squad.
How did it all go wrong?
While the couple’s marriage seemed solid on screen, Erika Jayne surprised fans when she filed for divorce in November of this year. She has since accused her estranged husband of cheating, but not everyone’s buying it. There are even claims that their divorce is a “sham”, and an attempt to “fraudulently protect” their money from those seeking to collect on debts.
Not least of these debts is an amount of more than $2 million that went missing from a settlement for the families of victims a deadly air crash.
In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia, 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Tom’s firm Girardi Keese acted for a number of the victims’ family members, but it’s now claimed that he misappropriated more than $2 million from a settlement fund.
Both he and Erika Jayne have been named in a suit from the firm Edelson PC, and said suit includes some damning stuff. Amongst other allegations, it’s claimed that “Girardi keeps engaging in fraud and deception in order to support a never-ending spending spree by himself and Jayne.”
The documents also state:
“Tom has resorted to embezzling the proceeds of settlements that should have been directed to his clients — [including] the widows and orphans who lost loved ones in the tragic crash of Lion Air Flight 610 — in order to continue funding his and Erika’s lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles.”
When asked if he had the ability to pay the $2 million owed to victims, his lawyer said that he did not, thanks in part to his divorce. His assets have since been frozen by a federal judge.
This was not the first hint of financial trouble at Girardi’s high-powered firm. In 2014, GK was sued by a group of women who claimed that the payout they received from a cancer lawsuit did not match the amount they anticipated.
They claimed that the firm had misappropriated more than $10 million of their money and that it was holding back documents that would prove this. As the case gathered steam, Tom Girardi borrowed $17 million from various lenders, and the victims were paid off several months later.
So are these people actually rich or what?
The current state of Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi’s finances is unclear. Girardi’s lawyer has claimed that his firm has only $15,000 to its name, while he himself recently claimed to be broke, saying: “At one point I had about 80 million or 50 million in cash. That’s all gone … I don’t have any money.”
Tom is also being sued by several former business partners, who claim that he withheld $315,000 in income they were owed, keeping the money for himself. Neither he nor his wife have commented on the situation outside of court.
That brings us to today, when Erika Jayne was pulled up by laywers for selling clothes. Earlier in the week, the Real Housewives star took to Twitter to sell second-hand designer gear, with a link that directed followers to French company Vestiaire Collective.
Lawyers seeking to recover the Lion Air settlement funds sad that the freeze on Tom Girardi’s assets extends to his wife, too. They asked a federal judge to grant an order stopping the sales, and compelling her to deposit any money she has earned thus far. The outcome of this remains to be seen.
While shit may be going down, Erika continues to project an image of wealth and success on social media. Whether this scandal will be enough to get her bumped from the next season of RHOBH remains to be seen, but it’s definitely the wildest thing to have happened to the franchise in a while.