"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
Things have not been going smoothly since Erika and Tom Girardi announced their divorce back in 2020. In fact, shortly after announcing their separation, a lawsuit was filed claiming that the divorce was meant to distract from Tom's alleged attempts to embezzle money from the "widows and orphans" of victims of the 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash, per Insider. And Erika has not escaped unscathed. She's wrapped up in all the legal drama now, too.
On Feb. 1, 2023, Tom was charged with five counts of wire fraud for stealing money from clients from 2010 to 2020, according to The New York Times. He and another lawyer (his son-in-law) at his old firm, Girardi Keese, still face eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of criminal contempt of court. And while Erika has not been charged with anything, the Department of Justice says the investigation into her actions is still "ongoing," Us Weekly reported.
Erika has been involved in several lawsuits at this point, including a recent $50 million racketeering suit that she was just reportedly served on July 22 after arriving home from a trip to Hawaii, per Page Six. (Racketeering, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a crime where a person extorts money from someone through a threat or force.) So, on the legal front, things are looking pretty intense right now.
However, Erika did win a major $5 million fraud lawsuit back in August of 2022—but more on that in a second.
First, a little background: Despite their 32-year age difference, Erika (a.k.a. Erika Jayne) and Tom seemed pretty happy together on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so it was a shock to fans (and her co-stars) when the couple announced they were divorcing after more than 20 years of marriage in November 2020.
"This is not a step taken lightly or easily...I request others give us that privacy as well," the reality TV personality said in a statement to Us Weekly at the time.
The two still aren’t officially divorced, but a lot has happened since then, and things have gone downhill.
So, what happened to Erika Jayne, and why does she have so much legal drama. Here’s what you need to know about the couple’s ongoing divorce and legal battles:
Erika filed for divorce in November 2020.
Tom met Erika when she was working at Chasen’s restaurant in Los Angeles. "One night I decided to slip Tom my telephone number," she wrote in her 2018 memoir, Pretty Mess. Tom reached out to Erika through his secretary and the couple got married six months later, in 1999.
Erika filed for divorce in 2020, per Us Weekly. The New York Times added that Erika filed just weeks after filming for season 11 had started.
She apparently moved out without telling Tom: “I drove him to work, I told him I loved him and he said, ‘Thanks, hun.’ Like I was an employee,” Erika said. “I went home and started putting everything in the moving van."
Meanwhile, Tom faced multiple lawsuits.
Several of Tom’s business partners sued him to dissolve their 1126 Wilshire Partnership. His partners claim that Tom never paid them approximately $315,000 in income from the partnership and kept the money for himself, according to court documents obtained by People.
They also said that Tom took out loans against the company’s property without their knowledge. The partners are asking to dissolve the partnership and liquidate the assets, as well as to be paid the money they say they were previously owed.
Tom also faces another lawsuit that claims he embezzled funds from families who lost loved ones in a 2018 Boeing plane crash. Tom attended a Chicago court hearing in mid-December of 2020 via phone and wasn’t able to explain to the judge where at least $2 million went from the crash settlement of Lion Air Flight 610, per The Chicago Sun-Times.
Erika was also named in the lawsuit because the plaintiffs' firm argued that Tom embezzled the money "in order to continue funding his and Erika's lavish Beverly Hills lifestyles," per E! News. On Jan. 29, 2022, Erika was officially dismissed from the case. "Pursuant to stipulation, plaintiff's claims against defendants EJ Global LLC and Erika Girardi are dismissed without prejudice and without costs," the court documents read.
Jay Edelson, the plaintiffs' attorney, claimed that he would refile against Erika in the state of California on Twitter. But Erika's lawyer, Evan Borges, said in a statement that "while Edelson retains the right to re-file in California, the dismissal of Erika from the federal lawsuit that triggered bankruptcies of Girardi Keese and Tom Girardi is extremely important."
"The truth matters. Here, the truth is that Erika had no role in the Lion Air dealings, actions, or inaction as between the attorneys and their clients, and she never received any of the Lion Air client settlement funds," he added, according to E! News.
As things started to heat up legally, Dr. Nathan Lavid, a forensic and clinical psychiatrist in Long Beach, submitted a sworn declaration to the Superior Court of California back in March of 2021. He attested that Tom is medically unfit to attend any court proceedings “for the foreseeable future,” per People, since Tom's 2021 diagnosis of dementia and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“Dementia impairs his ability to understand the hearing,” Dr. Lavid wrote. “His emotional distress is directly related to his dementia and exacerbated by his confusion.”
Tom was charged with five counts of wire fraud.
On Feb. 1, 2023, the Justice Department announced that Tom had been indicted for "allegedly embezzling more than $18 million from his clients," according to the NYT, which could carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. This was Tom's first and only charge so far in his legal battle.
Erika, on the other hand, hasn't been charged with anything, but a Department of Justice spokesperson says that "the investigation is ongoing," per Us Weekly.
So far, Erika has stayed pretty quiet, but she may have more to say soon. “You know, I have something to say, but not right now,” she told reporters, according to the Daily Mail. “You’ll hear from me soon.”
Erika was reportedly served papers for a new $50 million lawsuit.
On July 22, 2022, Erika appeared to be served papers for a $50 million racketeering lawsuit from Edelson PC when she arrived at the airport after a luxurious vacation to Hawaii, according to Page Six. This marked the second lawsuit from the firm that she'd been named in during 2022.
The lawsuit accused Erika of nine separate charges, including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, unlawful business practice and deceit, in relation to her ongoing legal drama with Tom, per Page Six
The outlet obtained footage of the event, which shows a woman approaching Erika (masked with her hair in a bun) at Los Angeles International Airport and handing her two thick stacks of documents.
Erika's lawyers have argued that she had no idea what Tom was doing at his law firm.
Back in October of 2021, Erika's attorney filed a document stating that she had “no role in the management of [Tom’s] firm” and currently has “no knowledge of whatever transpired at GK related to the Lion Air litigation filed in November 2018, or the settlement funds,” per Us Weekly.
The file also explained that Erika had “no access or visibility into the bank accounts of GK, including client trust accounts, into which Edelson [the class action law firm] alleges the settlement funds in the Lion Air case were paid.”
Then, in early November, more documents were filed by Erika's attorney stating that she was also not involved in the "illegal fee sharing" that Tom is accused of in relation to the Lion Air case. She “never had and does not have any of the fee agreements between [the Girardi Keese firm] and the Lion Air clients,” the papers continued.
The "bombshell filing" could have a serious impact on Erika's case, investigator Ronald Richards told Us Weekly. “It accuses Edelson’s firm of an illegal fee sharing agreement, exposing them to discipline,” he said. “Fee sharing requirements as it relates to attorney-client fee agreements are serious business in both California and Illinois.”
But an April 2022 lawsuit claims she knew exactly what Tom was doing.
Erika was named in another $55 million Edelson PC lawsuit back in April of 2022 that is related to this one, per Vulture. In the April lawsuit, the company accused Erika of using her fame to "prolong" the supposed misconduct between Tom and his law firm, Page Six reported.
Jay Edelson from Edelson PC told Page Six that the new case is a separate one that is “prosecuting the claims of the clients (the widows and orphans)” whereas the April suit was “more limited, in terms of who we sued, what we were suing about, and the legal theories we are pursuing.”
The April lawsuit claims the former couple “routinely misappropriated client settlement money to project an image of wealth and to prop up a lifestyle made for reality TV,” Page Six reported. The case also claims that Erika was the "frontwoman," "flaunting" her wealth and maintaining that Girardi Keese was still a successful law firm.
“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 papers continued.
In a statement, Jay Edelson added, “The victims of Tom’s fraud have had to sit back and watch Erika spend obscene amounts of money as they had nothing,” according to Page Six. “This is a giant step forward in obtaining real accountability for what was the largest criminal racketeering enterprise in the history of plaintiff’s law. It’s time for her to stop the lies and start taking some accountability."
Tom's law firm is more than $100 million in debt.
The year before, Tom's law firm, Girardi Keese, filed for bankruptcy, according to court documents obtained by People on August 25, 2021. The firm's total liabilities stack up to around $101 million ($97 million more than the company's total assets of all listed property).
It seems there were some organizational problems in the firm's financial records, per the documents. The trustee who reviewed the company's finances said "the debtor's accounting offices were not well maintained" and that "much of what the trustee found upon her appointment was very dated."
To help pay off the creditors in the bankruptcy case, the law firm started auctioning off a variety of items that had been stored in the law office. These items included a Cadillac, a piano, art, wine, vintage books, furniture, and sports and music memorabilia. A signed poster of Julia Roberts from the movie Erin Brockovich was also sold.
The real Erin Brockovich has worked with Tom on other cases. She recently said in an interview that she was unaware clients weren't receiving their money until the claims were made public, according to The New York Times. “It sickens me, it frustrates me, it saddens me,” she said. “I cannot fathom how they feel. And yet we keep sensationalizing Tom and Erika.”
The firm was even selling "Erika Jayne" collectibles, including signed magazine covers, framed photos of Erika and Tom, and the Billboard plaque for Erika's 2009 song, "Roller Coaster," per Us Weekly.
Erika has also been named in the bankruptcy case.
Lawyers alleged that Tom's law firm may have covered up to $25 million of Erika's expenses. Then, in July, Erika was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a bankruptcy trustee hoping to collect that money, according to The New York Times.
Court documents revealed that her expenses included more than $850,000 spent on stylists and manicures, at least $1.3 million on marketing, and $14 million in American Express charges. RHOBH fans know that Erika keeps a "glam squad" on retainer—they've even been featured in a few episodes.
Earlier court documents claim she knowingly hid money from creditors. "Erika has used her glamour and notoriety to continue to aid and abet in sham transactions that have occurred with respect to large transfers of assets from the Debtor," the documents said, per People.
Erika's lawyer, Evan Borges, stated that Erika did not know what Tom was accused of or how he handled his law firm's money. “Erika doesn’t have personal liability for any of those transactions,” Borges explained, per the New York Times.
Erika had to turn over a pair of $750,000 diamond earrings, and they might be auctioned off.
Erika was asked to hand in a pair of diamond earrings valued at $750,000 in January of 2022. The trustee argued that Tom bought the earrings back in 2007 using money from a client trust account at his law firm, per People. The studs were labeled as a "cost" on the account.
Erika and her lawyer have stated that she was innocent of where the money used to purchase them came from. Still, Erika eventually handed over the earrings after the judge ordered her to surrender them, per Paper Mag.
Now, the trustee presiding over the law firm bankruptcy is trying to auction the earrings (which are worth up to $1.4 million now) in December, according to court documents by attorney Ronald Richards.
She won a $5 million fraud lawsuit last summer.
Erika scored a big victory in court in late August of 2022. She shared on Instagram back in May 2022 that she was being extorted after two attorneys who worked with Tom Girardi’s law firm, Girardi & Keese, filed a $5 million fraud lawsuit in 2020 against her and Tom. “Extortion. This is what Im dealing with,” she captioned the post.
But in August, a judge found no evidence that Erika participated in “any wrongdoing” after Tom’s former colleagues sued her for “aiding and abetting” Tom's alleged crimes, per Page Six.
The lawsuit claimed that Erika knew her husband had been using client settlement money to pay for their lifestyle, but the judge said that the plaintiffs didn't have direct evidence tying Erika to the alleged misappropriation of funds, and called the plaintiff's claims “inferences," per Page Six.
In a deposition, Erika said she had no knowledge of business dealings. “They did all the books at Girardi & Keese,” she said, per Page Six. “They were in charge of all of the ledgers … I didn’t do the invoices.” She explained that she “didn’t really ask” about finances.
Erika owes $2.2 million in back taxes.
In June 2022, Erika shared in a court filing that the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) informed her she owes $2.2 million in taxes from 2019, according to Us Weekly.
“I do not have the ability to pay the FTP tax bill. I also do not know if the FTB is claiming any sort of lien on my assets, which include the diamond earrings,” she shared.
She was also hit was a $745,000 lawsuit from Christina Fulton.
On July 19, 2022, Christina Fulton, who is also Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend, sued Erika and two former employees of Toms firm over claims of receipt of stolen property and conversion, according to the complaint, per People.
Christina also claims that Erika's company, EJ Global LLC, was used to avoid paying taxes and funnel money from Tom's law firm to Erika. It also states that Erika was aware of the inner workings.
"Erika and Tom Girardi would deduct EJG´s expenses on their personal tax return...Girardi Keese would keep the money paid to Erika as a bogus receivable on its books and records," the document states. "Erika clearly knew that for tax years 2011 to 2013, the FTB found that the entity was created as a tax avoidance entity."
However, Erika's lawyer Evan C. Borges argued that the claims could not be backed because Erika is not a lawyer and did not deal with clients from Tom's firm. He also added that Erika was under the impression she was married to "an extremely wealthy attorney with a financially successful law firm," per People.
Christina's lawyer, Ronald Richards responded by noting that Erika was being sued for being the beneficiary of their client's funds, not for being Tom's wife.
"She needs to return some but not all of this settlement that was stolen by Tom with the help of others at this firm who we are investigating but may not be defendants yet," he continued. "Erika cannot keep all the benefits of stolen client money. Innocent spouse does not provide immunity for misappropriated funds," per People.
Tom was wiring money to his mistress.
When the Los Angeles Times reported on August 31, 2022, that Tom misused $300,000 from his law firm to wire money to his mistress in the week she closed on a new condo, Erika reacted on social media. “Wow. I knew about jewelry, shopping sprees, and plastic surgery but this really threw me for a loop,” she said on Instagram, next to a screenshot of the article.
Court documents obtained by the LA Times said that Tom wired $300,000 in client settlement funds to his mistress, Tricia Bigelow, a then-justice at the state appeals court in LA, in the week she bought an oceanfront condo in Santa Monica. The funds were allegedly part of an account reserved for residents of a polluted community and cancer victims.
His mistress's lawyer told the LA Times that Tom “never shared anything with her regarding the source of any gifts" and that the wire transfer was "NOT marked as coming from a [Girard Keese] trust account."
Tom's brother became his conservator due to Tom's dementia.
Back in July of 2021, Robert Girardi filed official letters of conservatorship in court, per Us Weekly. The paperwork makes Tom's brother the conservator of Tom's person and estate. The decision was made partially because of Tom's recent dementia diagnosis, which was labeled a "major neurocognitive disorder" in court documents.
But many, including fans and some RHOBH cast members themselves, aren't convinced. In an extra scene from RHOBH, Kyle Richards and her husband, Mauricio, called Tom "a young 81" and mention that "his mind is 100% there."
— Queens of Bravo (@queensofbravo) July 11, 2021
Tom has been disbarred and moved into a senior living facility.
Regardless of whether fans, lawyers, or even Erika think Tom is of sound mind, he has now officially checked into a senior living facility, according to the Daily Mail. He lives at the Belmont Village Senior Living in Burbank, California.
And the State Bar of California even conducted its own investigation to see whether any employees helped Tom with a cover up, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The pair sold their $1.25 million property in La Quinta, California.
In October of 2021, Us Weekly reported that Tom and Erika had put their $1.25 million home in La Quinta, California, up for sale. RHOBH fans heard Erika explain that, while she knew she owned a home there, she had no idea where it was and had never visited it or stayed there.
They found a buyer by October of 2021, with the money going towards creditors and attorney bills, per The Daily Mail.
Bravo was subpoenaed for extra footage from RHOBH season 11.
Erika has now been named in at least six civil lawsuits, per The New York Times—and a new one centers around her role in RHOBH. Lawyers sent a subpoena to Bravo producers requesting any unaired footage from the show last season.
Attorney Jay Edelson told Us Weekly that Bravo and producer Andy Cohen are suspected of "protecting" Erika by leaving certain clips out of the show. “We have all seen Bravo ride the Girardi embezzlement scandal to historically high ratings,” Edelson said in October.
“For the most part, Andy Cohen and Bravo have protected Erika, paying her—according to reports—as much as $600,000 to be on the show this year while allowing her to cast herself as the primary victim of Tom’s criminality," he continued. “We believe that Bravo has a legal and moral duty to cooperate in our litigation so the true facts come out and the families of the Lion Air crash victims can get some justice.”
Alex Baskin, president of Evolution Media (the company that produces RHOBH for Bravo), told The New York Times that “the show is an authentic reflection of what occurred in real time. No accommodation was made for Erika while shooting" or editing, he added.
Her legal issues came up again during RHOBH season 12.
Viewers got to see Erika answer even more questions about the cases against her in season 12. In one clip, Erika confronts co-star Sutton Stracke, asking her why she "chose to repeat things and say things that have been disproven," per E! News. She also asks why Sutton brought up "the $20 million elephant in the room"—supposedly about the claims that Erika's businesses accepted over $20 million in loans from Tom's law firm.
"I never had it," Erika says. She adds, "it was never in my hands. It was never in my account."
But Garcelle thinks otherwise: "Other than Erika saying that they've been disproven," she reveals in a confessional, "I've seen nothing—not in the paper, not in the blogs, nowhere. If this is true, why isn't it in the press?"
As for everyone who still has questions, "tell them to go f--king read everything that my lawyer has put out," Erika told a producer. "They can answer their own f--king questions.
Sutton Stracke was contacted by an attorney about Tom and Erika’s legal troubles.
In a preview for August 17, 2022, episode, Sutton shared that she was contacted by an attorney via letter about one of the lawsuits Tom and Erika are involved in.
“The attorney thought that I had information,” Sutton told the other Housewives at Dorit's Homeless Not Toothless gala. “They want information from me that I don’t even have. I’m not getting subpoenaed. I’m not going to Chicago.”
She explained that it wasn’t a subpoena, and that she hired a litigator to answer questions.
You Might Also Like