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'Real Housewives' stars plead not guilty in New Jersey tax, fraud case

By David Jones

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - "Real Housewives of New Jersey" stars Teresa Giudice and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice entered pleas of not guilty on Wednesday in a federal fraud case that could land them in prison for decades and see him deported to his native Italy.

The couple is accused of submitting fraudulent applications to obtain mortgages and other loans, concealing income from the reality show and failing to pay taxes.

Surrounded by court officers and private security, they entered the U.S. District Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey crowded with media and observers hoping to catch a glimpse of the reality television stars.

As captured on the reality show on Bravo Media, the couple and their four children live in a large, lavishly decorated mansion in Towaco, New Jersey and enjoy shopping sprees.

Teresa Giudice, 41, won renown in the reality television world when in the heat of an argument she overturned a dining table where the rest of the cast was sitting down for a meal.

Wearing a beige suit and her long dark hair pinned up in a neat bun for the court appearance, she did not speak. Neither did her husband, 43, clad in a dark suit with white polka dots.

At the brief hearing, federal prosecutors outlined the extensive 39-count indictment that accuses them of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, making false statements on loan applications and hiding income in a federal bankruptcy case.

Prosecutors say from 2001 until 2008, they submitted fraudulent applications to obtain mortgages and other loans. Following a bankruptcy filing in 2009, they are accused of concealing income that Teresa Giudice earned from the reality show, hiding rental income and concealing various businesses that they controlled.

Giuseppe Giudice also is accused of failing to file federal tax returns from 2004 to 2008, during which time he earned more than $996,000. An Italian citizen, he could face possible deportation if convicted.

Pretrial motions were set for September 9, and a trial date is tentatively scheduled for October 8 before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas.

Attorney Henry Klingeman, representing Teresa Giudice, said he would be seeking for his client to be judged fairly despite her celebrity status.

"I think it's going to make it challenging to pick a jury that hasn't formed a conclusion about her, good or bad, before trial," the attorney said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Osterman)

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