Perhaps they are targeted because of their newfound fame, or because they're just so fabulous that bitches are just jealous. But in reviewing all of the lawsuits—over 60 of them!—against several cast members of The Real Housewives franchise, a common theme seems to be that these people simply don't like to pay their bills.
Teresa & Joe Giudice, New Jersey
Tree and Juicy Joe have been no stranger to legal woes ever since they filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in late 2009; they were unable to pay the $11 million they owed to various creditors. Since then Joe has been arrested a couple of times: DWI, driving on a suspended license, and fraudulently obtaining a driver's license — clearly, this man must drive. Last year, Joe's former business partner Joe Mastropole filed a lawsuit against the couple accusing them of forging his name on mortgage documents in order to pocket $1 million. Joe's response to the accusation was, "Everybody does it." In January, a New Jersey judge ordered Giudice to pay Mastropole $260,000. It's yet to be seen if this debt will be lumped into the couple's bankruptcy claim.
Just this week, the Giudices—along with Bravo and other members of The Real Housewives of New Jersey cast—were named in a lawsuit over a drunken bar fight that occurred in February, while filming on location in the Dominican Republic. According to the documents, the plaintiff's injuries from the fight were severe enough to send two of the them to the hospital for surgery.
Melissa & Joe Gorga, New Jersey
Lawsuits might run in the family. Teresa's brother Joe and her sister-in-law Melissa claim that unlike the Giudices, they "pay their bills" — but several lawsuits indicate that they don't. Joe Gorga has been the subject of 26 lawsuits in New Jersey since 2002, as court records show, including a 2008 state tax lien for over $20,000. Most recently Gorga is being sued by Starlite Window Manufacturing Co. Inc. of Paterson to the tune of $30,000 for nonpayment of work. The Gorgas are also being sued for $50,000 by a sprinkler company for work on an apartment complex in Paterson. Additionally, according to public records, a civil judgement was made against them for over $12,000 to a company called Slaby Engineering Associates.
Danielle Staub, New Jersey
Although she's no longer on the show, Danielle Staub is another Housewife who's spent a lot of time in court rooms. Her ex-husband Kevin Maher (author of the infamous Cop Without a Badge) filed a defamation suit for $5 million after she wrote in her memoir that he "killed her dog, forced her to play Russian Roulette and even raped her."
Last month, Staub was sued for $375,000 after allegedly backing out of a three-year deal with Scores strip club, which required her to appear nude on the company's website. After news of her return to stripping made the rounds on the press, Staub quit her gig with Scores and gave an interview to People saying she was "addicted to love."
Gretchen Rossi & Slade Smiley, Orange County
Rossi and her boyfriend Smiley are being sued for fraud, breach of contract, deceit, and conspiracy by a former business associate, makeup artist Ronnan Myers. Myers and Rossi both invested $15,000 in Rossi's makeup company Gretchen Christine Beaute, with a verbal contract that they'd split the profits, with Myers claiming that Smiley put the kibosh on any written contracts. According to court documents, Rossi and Smiley tried to push Myers out of the company. Myers claims that Rossi took funds out of the joint business account without permission, and accused Rossi of having all profits deposited directly into her PayPal account, which Myers had no access to. Myers is seeking $100,000 in damages.
Rossi's ex, Jay Photoglou, sued her for slander and libel after she made public statements that he had stalked her, stolen from her, and threatened her. Photoglou says Rossi lied about the extent of their relationship because she wanted to be on the show and to be depicted as loving caretaker to her dying "fiance" Jeff Beitzel. Recently, Rossi was ordered to pay $40,000 of Photoglou's attorney fees.
Peggy & Micah Tanous, Orange County
New Housewife to the O.C., Peggy Tanous is experiencing what's become almost a milestone for Housewives: Her home is in foreclosure. The Tanouses owe $1.3 million on the home with multiple mortgages. They are now suing three different banks—BAC Home Loans Servicing, U.S. Bank National and PNC Mortgage—in an effort to save her home. To make matters worse, they also have a judgement against them, due to the fact that they owe money to the IRS.
Alexis & Jim Bellino, Orange County
Jim, the "King" of the Bellino household (although he doesn't always get to pick out which dress his wife wears), is being sued for fraud, deceit, breach of written contracts and other complaints by hotel owners Shashi Tejpaul, Gail Duncan, and Abdul Hamid Risdana. The suit states that Bellino, 48, who owns the company Private Money Immediately, lent $2.13 million to the plaintiffs. Though Tejpaul and Duncan, a married couple, say they made payments, Bellino obtained a notice of default and election to sell.
Kelly Bensimon, New York
Kelly Bensimon was sued by former Elle Accessories colleague Celeste Greenberg—who worked with Bensimon while Bensimon was EIC of the magazine—for allegedly stealing a jewelry design. The two had verbally agreed to split the profits; Bensimon sold the design — an owl pendant — for $285 under her own jewelry line, but now it's sold out.
Sonja Morgan, New York
Lady Morgan was sued by a production company for backing out of an agreement to finance a film (in which both John Travolta and Rosario Dawson were set to star) back in 2006. Morgan says she did it because she had just been served with divorce papers. A court ordered her to pay the production company $7 million in damages, which led Morgan to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2010.
Bethenny Frankel, New York
Forbes cover girl Bethenny Frankel recently made the biggest deal of her life when she reportedly earned $120 million after selling her Skinnygirl cocktail brand to Jim Beam, but with mo' money comes mo' problems. Frankel's former management company, Raw Talent, claims Bethenny—who signed with them back in 2008—cut them out of the deal when she fired them just days before inking the deal, and are suing her for $100 million. Frankel calls the suit "frivolous."
Cindy Barshop, New York
Barshop and her beauty chain Completely Bare spas were hit with a racial discrimination lawsuit after former employee Altovise Collier filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights, claiming she was mistreated, verbally abused, and ultimately fired due to the color of her skin. Barshop denies the charges and insists Collier was fired for "the quality of her work."
Sheree Whitfield, Atlanta
It seems that despite the fact that she didn't get "some seven figures" she was seeking in her divorce, Real Housewives of Atlanta's Sheree Whitfield still owes money to two separate law firms who are suing her for more than $180,000 in divorce-related fees. One of the law firms said Whitfield "ignored and stonewalled any effort to respond to post-judgment discovery about her assets and income," and that she believes she's "above the law."
Kim Zolciak, Atlanta
After her single "Tardy for the Party" became an unexpected hit—reaching Top 10 on the iTunes Dance Chart, gah—Zolciak was forced to temporarily remove the song from iTunes after she was sued by producer Don Vito for — you guessed it — nonpayment. The song has since reappeared on iTunes, leading us to believe the two settled out of court.
Nene Leakes, Atlanta
It was discovered after the first season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta that these women weren't as wealthy as portrayed themselves to be, particularly Nene Leakes, who, it turns out, rented instead of owned her home and was eventually evicted, owing over $6,000 in back rent. Her husband Gregg also owed $100,000 in back taxes. Two years ago, the Bank of America filed a lawsuit against the Leakes.
Michaele & Tareq Salahi, D.C.
Of all the Housewives, past and present, the Salahis are the couple who step into the legal shit pile the most often. They've been named in over 20 civil lawsuits, including by vendors, former employees, neighbors, at least three couples who held their weddings at their Oasis Winery, and Tareq's own mother.
The Salahis wed in 2003 with an extravagant celebration that included 1,836 guests. Michaele's dress cost $6,000, but Tareq filed federal fraud charges against the bridal shop when it attempted to process his credit card. The store eventually was paid, but only after spending $9,000 on legal fees. In 2007, Michaele was sued for $4,000 by a different stylist for an "urgent" appointment to update her blond hair extensions, for which human hair was ordered and overnighted to the salon. A judge ruled in favor of the stylist, but the money is still unpaid. Last year, Dr. Navin Singh of Ivy Plastic Surgery in Maryland filed a lawsuit against Michaele for $500 for "unnamed procedures."
If we had to pick our favorite Salahi lawsuit, we'd go with the one from December 2009, when the Salahis were being sued for nonpayment by their landscaper. The judge on the case ordered Tareq to give the watch off his wrist—allegedly worth $325,000—to the plaintiff to cover his debt of $2000. It turned out that the watch didn't work, and was actually a fake, worth less than $100.