Tom Girardi, that is. The famed attorney, whose case against Pacific Gas & Electric inspired the movie Erin Brockovich, and estranged husband of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' resident would-be pop star Erika Jayne.
The AP reports Girardi has been indicted by federal grand juries in Los Angeles and Chicago on charges of stealing more than $18 million from his clients.
Steve Eichner/AP Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi
Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said a federal investigation had revealed that behind Girardi's public persona of a crusader for the less fortunate, he was "committing fraud on a massive scale."
One of the cases that made Girardi famous (and rich) was the 1996 class-action lawsuit against PG&E for contaminating the water of the residents of Hinkley, Calif., resulting in a then-record settlement of $333 million. The lawsuit was the basis of Erin Brockovich, on which Girardi served as an adviser.
That case built Girardi's reputation, but other lawsuits, like the one against Lion Air for the 2018 plane crash that killed 189 people, ended up funding Girardi's increasingly lavish lifestyle. U.S. prosecutors in Chicago said Girardi, his attorney son-in-law, and their firm's chief financial officer stole money from five clients who had reached settlements with Boeing, the manufacturer of the plane run by Lion Air.
Girardi, 83, was disbarred last year, his firm Girardi Keese filed for bankruptcy, and he's said to be suffering from dementia and is under a court conservatorship. Jayne filed for divorce in 2020.
Girardi's downfall and its attendant drama have played out in real time as well as on RHOBH, where Jayne has had to field softball questions from her good frenemies about what she knew and when, and the extent of her involvement, if any. Jayne has maintained her innocence, though she has been criticized for her apparent lack of sympathy for the victims of her husband's machinations.
In addition, Jayne and Girardi were the subjects of the 2021 Hulu documentary, The Housewife and the Hustler, which delved further into Girardi's scams. Hulu once again dipped into this particular scam well, which will never run dry, with the 2022 Jen Shah documentary, The Housewife and the Shah Shocker.
Shah, the short and even more short-tempered tentpole of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, was recently sentenced to more than six years for committing wire fraud in a telemarketing scheme that prosecutors argued defrauded thousands of people nationwide, many of whom were older than the age of 55.
Sigh. Really makes you wish for the days when the biggest legal problems plaguing the Housewives universe was someone drunkenly resisting arrest, then somehow slipping out of her handcuffs, in south Florida on Christmas Eve.