A Brief Overview of Erika Jayne’s Legal Woes

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For the first time in Bravo history, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has embarked on a four-part reunion. We can thank one woman for that: Erika Girardi. Girardi, best known by her stage name, Erika Jayne, shot to reality-television stardom when she joined the series in its sixth season. But she had a swift and devastating fall from grace after her estranged husband, lawyer Tom Girardi, was accused of funding their lavish lifestyle by misappropriating millions of dollars from clients, including relatives of the Lion Air Flight 610 victims.

The 11th season of RHOBH followed Erika Jayne as her life unraveled, tracking her surprise divorce from Girardi and the wave of allegations being lodged against the couple. Was Jayne aware that Girardi had allegedly embezzled settlement money owed to, as her Housewives costar Dorit Kemsley bluntly put it, “orphans and widows,” throughout their marriage? Did Jayne and Girardi undergo a sham divorce in an attempt to hide the money owed to the crash victims and others? And why has Bravo been dragged into this whole mess? Here’s what you need to know about the metaphorical and literal trials Erika Jayne is up against.

Who Is Erika Jayne?

Born Erika Chahoy in Atlanta, Georgia, Jayne was a 27-year-old mother working as a cocktail waitress in Los Angeles when she met 60-year-old Tom Girardi—a big-shot attorney who had cofounded the law firm Girardi Keese and worked on the case that inspired Erin Brokovich—in the late 1990s. Several months later, the two would marry. Jayne eventually joined The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in 2015, quickly making a name for herself for her overt opulence, excessive glam squad, and icy demeanor. A singer and performer, she used her newfound RHOBH platform to bolster her pop-music career, releasing singles and music videos for songs like “How Many F**ks” and “Xxpensive.” She was famous for employing her “pat the puss” dance move during live performances, which is exactly what it sounds like.

The Divorce

On November 3, 2020, Erika Jayne filed for divorce from her 81-year-old husband after more than two decades of marriage, reportedly citing irreconcilable differences, tabloids reported at the time. This came as a shock to RHOBH fans, as there seemed to be no indication that anything was amiss between the couple in his many appearances on the show. “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi. 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,” she said in a statement reported by People. Per reports one week after her filing, Jayne requested that Girardi pay spousal support as well as her legal fees. On social media and, later, on the show, Jayne alleged that Girardi had a “yearslong” affair during their marriage.

Or…Is It a Divorce?

And then things got, well, pretty messy. In December 2020, a law firm that had worked with Girardi representing the families of those killed in the 2018 Lion Air Flight 610 crash filed a lawsuit in Chicago federal court, alleging that Girardi and his firm owed “tens of million dollars to clients, lenders, co-counsel, settlement administrators and experts, to name only a few,” according to documents obtained by USA Today. The suit also reportedly claimed that Jayne and Girardi’s divorce was a “sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm.” (Jayne has repeatedly denied that the divorce is a sham.) The lawsuit also claimed that Girardi misappropriated funds from his clients to fund his and Jayne’s “outrageous lifestyles,” which were on full display on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

In June, the ABC News special The Housewife and the Hustler brought to light a new lawsuit that alleged that Girardi transferred $20 million in loans from his law firm, Girardi Keese, to Jayne’s company EJ Global. On The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Jayne claimed that she had no knowledge of the transfer, but the allegation certainly didn’t help rumors that their divorce may not have been what it appeared to be. In July, a judge ruled that Girardi’s embezzlement victims were authorized to pursue money from Jayne.

The Fall of Tom

In January, Girardi and his firm were “forced into” chapter 7 bankruptcy by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Barry Russell after a group of creditors claimed that the firm owed them millions. The Los Angeles Times had reported in December that U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin of Chicago froze Girardi’s assets, finding that “he misappropriated at least $2 million in client funds that were due to the families of those killed in the crash of a Boeing jet in Indonesia,” calling Girardi’s conduct “unconscionable” and recommending a criminal inquiry into the case.

In February, a court placed Girardi under the temporary conservatorship (yes, that type of conservatorship) of his brother, Robert Girardi, after Robert filed a claim in court alleging that Girardi’s current condition had “sadly deteriorated to the point where he cannot care for himself without assistance,” according to a copy of the petition obtained by People. Robert alleged that Girardi’s “short-term memory is severely compromised and, on information and belief, he is often not oriented as to date, time or place.”

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