Erika Jayne’s Legal Drama & Divorce From Tom Girardi, Explained

On Feb. 1, Girardi was indicted on charges of theft and accused of stealing over $18 million from his clients.

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Erika Jayne and Andy Cohen at 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Season 11 reunion.
Nicole Weingart/Bravo

It’s “Xxpensive” to be Erika Jayne, and fans are wondering where that money is coming from. In November 2020, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star filed for divorce from Tom Girardi in Los Angeles, citing irreconcilable differences. Just one month later, Girardi and his law firm were faced with fraud and embezzlement claims, with one lawsuit accusing Jayne of filing for divorce to avoid dealing with legal consequences. Ever since, as RHOBH continues to play out on Bravo, all eyes have been on Jayne and Girardi.

On April 6, 2022, Jayne was faced with yet another legal battle, this time aimed directly at her. The star and her company EJ Global LLC, along with her estranged husband’s law firm Girardi & Keese, are being sued with accusations of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, and receipt of stolen property, among other allegations. The lawsuit alleges that the firm “was siphoning off millions” of dollars meant for their defendants “to fund Tom’s and Erika's all-consuming need to spend,” and even accuses Jayne of being the “‘frontwoman” of the operation, selling to the world (including unsuspecting clients) “that Girardi & Keese was successful.” The legal drama came to a head on Feb. 11, when Girardi was officially indicted by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Chicago on fraud charges.

Throughout RHOBH Season 11, Jayne broke her silence on the legal drama multiple times, denying accusations that divorce was a “sham” to hide assets and avoid embezzlement charges. During the four-part reunion special in November, Jayne clarified that she couldn’t answer every question fans or host Andy Cohen had. “I’m in an almost impossible situation, and anyone that has been wronged, I want them to be made whole,” she said, adding that she won’t be held accountable for it. “Whatever Tom Girardi did or did not do, that’s on him.”

ABC News’ 2021 documentary The Housewife & The Hustler further pushed their legal drama into the spotlight, as former clients of Girardi who claim to be victims of his alleged financial crimes told their stories and dissected how Jayne and Girardi would flaunt their wealth on RHOBH. As Jayne continues to star on the show, fans are wondering how deeply Jayne is truly involved with the scandal and asking if she’ll even have to face jail time at some point. Now, with continuing lawsuits and Girardi’s theft charges, she will only have more questions to face. Here’s everything you need to know about Jayne’s legal drama.

Why Did Erika Jayne File For Divorce?

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On Nov. 3, 2020, Jayne announced that she had filed for divorce from Girardi. “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi,” she told E! News in a statement. “This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together. It is my absolute wish to proceed through this process with respect and with the privacy that both Tom and I deserved.” According to her divorce filing, as obtained by PEOPLE, Jayne requested spousal support from her estranged husband and also requested Girardi be forbidden from asking for spousal support from her. The couple had not signed a prenuptial agreement.

After Girardi’s legal scandal came to light, Jayne denied reports that she divorced Girardi due to his legal issues or in an attempt to avoid embezzlement claims. Instead, in December, Jayne accused Girardi of having an affair with another woman and shared what she purported to be text message screenshots between Girardi and his alleged mistress, which appear to date back to 2011, on Instagram. “This is Justice Tricia A. Bigelow,” she captioned the post. “She was f*cking my husband Tom Girardi and he was paying her Saks bill and paying for her plastic surgery.” The post was quickly deleted minutes later.

What Has Erika Jayne Been Accused Of?

In December, Edelson PC filed a civil lawsuit against Girardi and his law firm, Girardi-Keese, accusing him of fraud and embezzlement. The suit alleges that he embezzled money from settlements that were made to Illinois-based relatives of victims who died in the 2018 Lion Air plane crash off the coast of Indonesia. Since then, many of Girardi’s former clients have come out to accuse him of not paying them settlement money that he won for them.

While most of his former clients primarily target Girardi for the mishandled funds, Edelson PC mentioned Jayne in their lawsuit, alleging that Girardi “resorted to embezzling the proceeds of settlements that should have been directed to his clients ... in order to continue funding his and Erika’s lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles.” On RHOBH, Jayne is often seen with her glam squad in tow, wearing designer clothes, bragging about her private jets, and showing off the Pasadena mansion she resided in with Girardi.

The suit accuses Jayne of filing for divorce to skirt embezzlement claims, stating that it was “simply 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 GK.” According to the Los Angeles Times, creditors evaluating Girardi’s finances have alleged that he transferred $20 million from his firm to fund their lifestyles and his estranged wife’s music career. While some fans believe that Jayne didn’t know where the money came from, others have pointed to evidence that she may have known about Girardi’s financial struggles, including her signature on legal papers that allowed Girardi to borrow millions of dollars from a high-interest lender in 2019. Now, Girardi and his law firm are being investigated in a bankruptcy case, and Jayne is being dragged in.

According to PEOPLE, Girardi & Keese has been accused of transferring $20 million to Erika’s business accounts, including one created after the embezzlement lawsuit was filed. In June 2021, creditors in the bankruptcy case separately accused Jayne of refusing to turn over bank statements and other documents. Jayne fired back in her own court filing, with her lawyers writing that she “has been and remains willing to cooperate fully with the Trustee's investigation in this bankruptcy of debtor Girardi & Keese.” On June 28, the court ruled in favor of the creditors, ordering Jayne’s landlord, divorce lawyer, and accountant to turn over “key documents” pertaining to her finances.

Edelson PC dismissed the claims against Jayne in Girardi’s embezzlement lawsuit in January 2022 before filing a bombshell new lawsuit against the reality star in April. As reported by PEOPLE, Jayne has been sued for $55 million in damages, along with her company EJ Global LLC and Girardi & Keese. The law firm has accused the parties of the following charges: racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, receipt of stolen property, aiding and abetting concealment of stolen property, money had and received, conversion, unlawful business practice, consumers legal remedies act, and deceit.

“The Girardi Keese firm operated what we now know was the largest criminal racketeering enterprise in the history of plaintiffs' law,” the lawsuit states. “All told, it stole more than $100 million dollars from the firm's clients, co-counsel, vendors, and many others unfortunate enough to do business with the firm.” The lawsuit accuses Jayne of “selling” Girardi’s success as a lawyer and displaying “a nationwide showroom of the money they stole” on RHOBH. “To this day, Erika uses her significant public platform to lie about her own involvement, and to try to assist Tom and the others in getting away with it,” the documents claim. No formal criminal charges have been filed against Jayne, and her attorneys have yet to respond to the lawsuit.

What Has Tom Girardi Been Charged With?

On Feb. 3, 2023, Girardi was formally indicted on charges of fraud. The Associated Press reports that prosecutors claim Girardi has stolen over $18 million from his clients through his former law firm. Chicago prosecutors have accused Girardi, his son-in-law that worked for Girardi & Keese, and the firm’s chief financial officer all took funds meant for families of victims in the 2018 Lion Air crash that killed 189 people and became a point of contention during RHOBH Season 12.

Girardi was also allegedly involved in stealing settlement funds he had secured for a Los Angeles couple whose son was paralyzed in a car wreck and an Arizona widow whose husband died after a major boat malfunction. “He claimed to be fighting for those less fortunate,” Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a press conference. “But our investigation has revealed that behind this public persona, [he was] committing fraud on a massive of scale.”

Will Erika Jayne’s Legal Issues Be Shown On RHOBH?

Housewives honcho Andy Cohen promised that Jayne will be talking about her situation on RHOBH Season 11, and so far, she’s delivered. Jayne opened up about her decision to divorce Girardi on the June 23 episode, after revealing the news to some of her castmates in a group text. But that was nothing compared to their upcoming legal issues. On the July 14 episode, which was filmed after Girardi was sued by Edelson PC, Jayne denied accusations that her divorce was a “sham” to avoid embezzlement charges, saying that she “wouldn't f*cking know” how to hide assets. “It took a lot of courage to leave and it took two seconds for some a**hole to say it was a sham and everybody to believe it,” she said in a confessional.

Speaking to co-stars Kyle Richards and Lisa Rinna over FaceTime, Jayne was asked if she was “totally in the dark” about the situation and clarified who was being targeted. “You have to remember: it is the firm that they’re dragging in,” she said. “So they’re suing the firm, and I’m being attached to it.” However, Jayne declined to answer how she found out about the embezzlement case or explain why she was named in the lawsuit when asked by a producer. Instead, she simply told Richards and Rinna that the lawsuit “means a lot of things” and said Girardi is not financially supporting her through it.

Later in the episode, during a gathering with Rinna and Crystal Kung Minkoff, Jayne said the accusation that her divorce was a sham was “painful.” She went on to call her estranged husband “a piece of sh*t” who “steals from widows and orphans,” and expressed fear over how his alleged actions could drastically affect her. “People think that Erika Jayne brought down Tom Girardi,” she said in a confessional. “Tom Girardi brought down Tom Girardi. I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created. I fear starting over. The only thing I have is my name and the hope that this is not where this ends for me.”

Jayne continued to maintain her innocence in later episodes, especially during an emotional trip to La Quinta. While on a hike, Garcelle Beauvais asked Jayne whether she had a “heads-up” about Girardi’s legal troubles, she slowly nods her head to indicate yes before saying, “No, I did not.” However, she later got angry at Beauvais for revealing that Girardi contacts Jayne to the entire group, despite Jayne divulging this information while she was still mic’d. “Obviously, I have not talked to him and I cannot talk to him, even though, he calls me every day,” Jayne told Beauvais and Minkoff before returning to their vacation home.

However, not everyone is believing her story. Castmate Sutton Stracke openly questions Jayne about her involvement in Girardi’s legal issues, asking how the $20 million got into her business accounts. Jayne said that she was never allowed access to the numbers of her own accounts. Stracke also questioned details of a story Jayne told her co-star about a car accident that Girardi was allegedly injured in. Eventually, their tensions culminated in an explosive dinner at Kathy Hilton’s house on the Sept. 1 episode. “I am not a liar,” Jayne tells her, seething. “You have a lot of f*cking nerve.” At one point, she threatened to sue Stracke, resulting in a tense walk-off.

In the first part of the four-part reunion special, which aired on Oct. 13, Jayne clarified that she couldn’t answer every question Cohen and fans had but did say she had sympathy for Girardi’s alleged victims, contrary to some beliefs. “I’m in an almost impossible situation, and anyone that has been wronged, I want them to be made whole,” she said. “I’m talking about the alleged victims of all of Tom’s alleged misdoings. And it’s important that people hear that from me.”

During Part 2 of the reunion on Oct. 20, when Cohen questioned why she didn’t leave Girardi sooner, Jayne claimed that her ex-husband was in charge of her finances, including businesses under her name and paychecks she received from RHOBH. “I walk out with two credit cards, they get cut. ... Who am I going to go call?” she asked. “I gave every paycheck to my husband. I’ve handed every paycheck I’ve ever made over. I stayed because I had no access.”

While she denies prior knowledge of Girardi’s alleged misdeeds, she did admit she got concerned when she noticed her name on lawsuits. “What I have been saying is true,” she said. “It’s not unusual in Tom’s business for him to be sued. But when Erica Girardi started ending up on lawsuits, that’s when my ears were pricked.” She went on to explain that she’s still trying to figure out the truth of Girardi and his law firm’s actions, like everyone else — but she won’t be held accountable for it. “Whatever Tom Girardi did or did not do, that’s on him,” she said.

How Has Tom Girardi Been Affected?

As the nationwide investigation into Girardi & Keese was underway, Girardi lost his license to practice law in California, and a judge froze all of his assets in December 2020. His former Pasadena mansion is currently for sale at $13 million. In addition, according to court documents obtained by US Weekly, Girardi has reportedly been diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. As a result, he was placed under a temporary conservatorship, with his brother Robert now in charge of his financial and medical decisions. “My brother presently needs me to make all decisions related to this bankruptcy case, all legal matters in which he is presently involved, and also to make all decisions related to his personal matters, such as health decisions,” Robert said during a Feb. 1 hearing.

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In June, the conservatorship was made permanent, with Robert being appointed the primary conservator of Tom's "person and estate.” The judge found that Girardi "consents and does not object" to the conservatorship. However, he expressed his discontent with the situation at the hearing, according to Law360. "Obviously, I disagree with the conservatorship altogether," he said. “I think that we should put together the reasons why the conservatorship should be dissolved, and then we'll address the court. Right now, I have nothing to say to the court.” Despite this, Girardi eventually consented via his attorney, and Robert went on to file official conservatorship papers in July, claiming that Girardi has a “major neurocognitive disorder” and lacks the capacity to provide for his health or “give informed consent for medical treatment.”

On Friday, Aug. 20, Girardi was officially disbarred by a California Federal Court. According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, he did not contest the decision, meaning he’s no longer allowed to practice law in California federal courts. However, Entertainment Tonight reports that “the state bar proceedings are still pending,” meaning he’s technically not yet been disbarred from practicing in state courts.

What Is The Housewife & The Hustler?

The Housewife & The Hustler is an ABC News documentary special that outlines the allegations against Girardi and discusses Jayne’s potential role in the drama. The doc includes interviews with some of Girardi’s accusers, including Joe Ruigomez, whose family alleged that Girardi withheld settlement money he secured from Pacific Gas & Electric after they were found at fault for the San Bruno gas line fire that severely burned Joe. The special also features Bias Ramadhan, whose mother died in the Indonesia plane crash and said Girardi also didn’t pay him the money he was promised. “We are the victims here,” he said in the doc. “Not him, Tom — not his wife.”

Neither Jayne nor Girardi participated or have commented on the special. However, Cohen has spoken out about the documentary, criticizing its use of two former Housewives stars. “I will say the idea that Danielle Staub and Dana Wilkey are the experts in this documentary about Erika is questionable at best,” he told a caller on his show Radio Andy. “So I kind of realized I wasn’t going to learn anything new from them about Erika.” While he doesn’t think the special will affect Jayne’s future on the show, he did call the allegations against Girardi disturbing. “We have to see how this plays out,” he said.

Did Erika Jayne's Lawyers Drop Her?

On June 15, the day after The Housewife & The Hustler premiered on Hulu, Jayne’s attorneys announced that they were no longer representing her in Girardi’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. “The relationship of trust and confidence that is essential to a properly functioning attorney-client relationship has broken down and, in the good faith assessment of counsel, the relationship is irreparable,” Dinsmore & Shohl LLP wrote in court documents confirming their withdrawal from the case, according to People.

However, just two days later, the law firm withdrew their notion and announced their intention to keep working with Jayne in the bankruptcy case, meaning she did not have to find new legal representation.

Will Erika Jayne Or Tom Girardi Face Jail Time?

Neither Jayne nor Girardi have been charged with state or federal crimes for the government, so it’s too soon to speculate whether either of them will face jail time. However, Jayne is actively attempting to prevent courts from taking her assets that some believe to have come from embezzled settlement money, claiming that they were gifts from Girardi and not community property. This could go many different ways, but it seems that Jayne isn’t backing down without a fight.

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