A federal judge in Chicago held the lawyer husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne and his law firm in civil contempt Monday when he could not explain what happened to at least $2 million due to people who lost family in the Lion Air Flight 610 crash.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin also froze the assets of lawyer Thomas Girardi and the Girardi Keese law firm, explaining that the “simple way to cure all of this” is to pay at least four clients he said are each owed a half-million dollars.
“These are widows and orphans,” Durkin said. “Half a million dollars for any one of these families is a significant amount of money. Life changing, given the tragedy they went through.”
Though Girardi attended Monday’s hearing by telephone, he spoke only once to let the judge hear his voice. When Durkin asked him to explain what happened to the money, a lawyer representing him told the judge, “I’ve advised him to decline that.”
She also said Girardi was not able to pay the $2 million. A fifth client also may not have been paid, the judge noted. Durkin said he planned to refer the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office. Following that referral, federal prosecutors in Chicago asked the judge late Monday to give them and other law enforcement personnel access to sealed filings in the case.
The Chicago law firm Edelson PC named Erika Girardi, also known as Erika Jayne, in a lawsuit this month alleging Thomas Girardi embezzled money from settlements related to the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in order to keep up the couple’s celebrity status and to “project a public image of obscene wealth at all times, and at whatever the cost.”
Edelson also sought the contempt finding against the Girardi Keese law firm in related litigation presided over by Durkin. Lawyer Jay Edelson told Durkin on Monday that Thomas Girardi called him last week and offered him money to make the dispute go away.
The allegations against the couple revolve around the case in Durkin’s court, which stems from the October 2018 crash of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after it left Jakarta, Indonesia. The lawsuit said Boeing reached individual settlements with clients and families represented by Girardi Keese and Edelson, with primary terms reached early in 2020.
The lawsuit outlines multiple attempts by Edelson to find out whether the clients had been paid, allegedly resulting in mixed answers. It also accused Girardi and his wife of leading “opulent” and “notoriously lavish lifestyles,” pointing to $40,000 per month Jayne reportedly spends on her “look” and Girardi’s daily standing reservation and exclusive table at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Los Angeles.
“Erika even performs a song called ‘Exxpen$ive,’ featuring the hook ‘it’s expensive to be me,’” the lawsuit notes.
It claims the couple is “facing increasing pressure to actually pay down their debts” and alleges their publicly filed divorce “is a sham proceeding” designed to shield assets from creditors. It also says “Girardi and Jayne siphoned significant sums of money from lenders and clients” and moved it out of the Girardi Keese bank accounts “for personal use.”
Hours after the lawsuit was filed Dec. 2, Jayne posted a photograph of herself on her Twitter account accompanied by two words: “High drama.”