“We just didn’t know how much of a snake he was going to be along the way.”
“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne and her husband Tom Girardi were put under the microscope for a new ABC News special dropping today on Hulu, “The Hustler and the Housewife.”
The hour-long doc comes after reality star’s lawyer husband has been accused of misappropriating settlements from several cases, including money due to the families of the victims of a 2018 Boeing jet crash in Indonesia. Erika filed for divorce in November 2020, with many wondering how much she knew about her husband’s allegedly shady behavior … while Tom has been placed in bankrupcy, was reportedly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is under a conservatorship.
While “The Hustler and the Housewife” didn’t contain a ton of new revelations, it did include interviews with some of Girardi’s alleged victims, as well as a very random appearance from “Real Housewives of New Jersey” alum Danielle Staub … who chimed in with a few barbs thrown at Erika.
Staub and Erika worked at the same strip club back in the day, though not at the same time. Danielle said their interactions were mainly during “Watch What Happens Live” appearances. “I didn’t get the best vibe from her, but I know a lot of fake people and it turns out she’s just one of them,” Danielle said to camera.
Of Erika’s pop star career, Staub also added, “I liked that even though she can’t hold a tune, she sang. She entertained. She’s entertaining.” Regarding “Housewives” in general, she added, “The ladies, they have a tendency to flaunt and still do, well beyond their means.”
Tom and Erika’s wealth being flaunted on the Bravo reality show was a big talking point throughout the special, as the two were criticized for their very open, extravagant lifestyles … lifestyles which may have been bankrolled off of money that wasn’t theirs to spend.
“I can’t imagine being a victim and watching any episode of the Real Housewives and watching Erika Jayne go through her extensive shoe collection, her closet, her home, her private plane, going on trips and flaunting all of this wealth without wondering where it came from,” said ABC’s Sunny Hostin during the show.
Former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Chris Darden expressed shock over seeing Tom on “Housewives,” while attorney Brian Kabateck said the couple’s talk about their private planes on the show was “most appalling.” He added, “That’s, I think, crossing the line in what we do. We represent people that are victimized by big corporations and rich people and here you’re putting it out that you’re super wealthy and that you’re basically the man. We sue the man, you don’t want to be the man and he’s showing people that he’s the man.”
Kim Archie, who used to work as a legal consultant for Girardi’s firm, also slammed the lack of “decorum” Tom exhibited when it come to his wealth. “There’s plenty of lawyers that have private jets and beautiful homes, but there’s one way to do it and one way that’s basically like a middle finger to people,” she said.
The bulk of the special focused on a handful of Tom’s alleged victims, including the Ruigomez family. Joe Ruigomez was just 19 when a gas line blew up under his San Bruno, California home in 2010. While he escaped the inferno with burns all over his body, his girlfriend was found dead. The Ruigomezes hired Girardi’s firm to take on Pacific Gas & Electric.
“We just didn’t know how much of a snake he was going to be along the way,” Joe’s sister told ABC. Joe, meanwhile, said Tom often talked to him about Erika and even showed off the music videos he financed.
Girardi apparently settled the case without filling in the Ruigomez family, though they were happy with the amount. “The number Tom got, I was okay with that number,” said Joe. “To put it simply, it was a good amount and made me feel comfortable, made me feel like it would cover any issues in life and then some.”
But when it came time to get the money, Girardi was slow to deliver and claimed he had to give them monthly payments as mandated by the court. The court, however, denied that was the case. The Ruigomez family even shared voicemails from Tom on the special, which heard him saying how he cared for the family more than any other case he’s fought in the past. “When I hear the voice, it makes me sick to my stomach because I know it was all a lie,” said Archie.
Joe, who will need surgeries for the rest of his life due to his injuries, said Tom would always try to play it cool when he pressed him about the money. “He would call me back and be like, ‘Oh, are you mad at me?’ He would butter me up, ‘You know what Joe, you’re a bitchin’ guy,'” said Joe, “That’s something he would say. ‘You’re a bitchin’ guy, baby.'”
The family eventually sued him to get the remaining settlement, with Tom agreeing to pay $12 million in increments. The money stopped after the first payment. “It’s very disappointing knowing your lawyer basically robbed you, knowing he knows everything you’ve been through. I just don’t get it,” said Joe.
The other big case examined in the special was the Edelson PC lawsuit against both Tom and Erika, which dropped a month after Erika filed for divorce. The Chicago law firm claimed the couple used the funds from Lion Air Flight 610 crash victims to fund their “lavish” lifestyle. The suit also alleges Erika filed for divorce to help him hide his assets.
Bias Ramadhan, whose mother Hasnawati binti Nawazar was killed in the crash and who hasn’t received his payout, was interviewed for the special.
“This is a tragedy, right?” said Ramadhan from Indonesia. “And then the lawsuit is also emotionally draining and there’s almost no night that anybody like this is not crying.”
Ramadhan shared his emails with Girardi, including one which said “Mr. Tom never answer my email. “We wait and we wait,” Bias continued, “We are the victims here. Not him, not Tom, not his wife. It’s only me and three of my siblings. We just want to know, can we get our money? And when we will get it. Whether it’s a month, or be it two months, I don’t even, we don’t even know yet.”
In a video taped deposition from 2020 shown, Girardi admitted he’s broke. “At one point, I had $80 million, or $50 million in cash. That’s all gone,” he said. “I also had a stock portfolio of about $50 million and that’s all gone.”
As the special noted, Girardi is currently ineligible to practice law in California and the State Bar is pursuing disablement. Erika, meanwhile, was subpoenaed to give a deposition as well, but both hearings have been delayed.
“Erika Jayne is a very strong woman, I can tell,” said Staub near the end of the special. “She’s a warrior and she’s a bitch. So am I, it’s fine to be a bitch. My advice would be shut up, sit down. pay attention to what’s going on in your case and don’t worry about TV.”
The show ended with Kathy Ruigomez, Joe’s mother, and Kim Archie watching an episode of RHOBH together. “Being broke sucks and being rich is a lot better,” exclaimed Erika in the footage. “Tough days ahead for Erika,” said Archie with a laugh.
Both Girardi or Jayne declined to comment on the special.
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