A Chicago law firm leveled a damning set of accusations Tuesday against “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne, accusing her of acting as the “frontwoman” for a “criminal enterprise” in a racketeering lawsuit it previewed in federal court here.
Expanding on allegations it first made in a lawsuit filed in Chicago on Dec. 2, 2020, Edelson PC said a California law firm founded by Jayne’s celebrity lawyer husband, Thomas Girardi, stole more than $100 million from its clients, co-counsel, vendors and others.
It also alleged that Jayne used her significant public platform — including recent episodes of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” — to lie about her own involvement in the scheme and collude with Girardi despite their public divorce.
Lawyers for Jayne and others accused by Edelson either declined to comment or could not immediately be reached Tuesday.
Edelson’s original accusations against Jayne, Girardi and his law firm, Girardi Keese, revolved around the 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. Edelson accused the couple of a scheme to embezzle the settlement money that resulted from the litigation that followed in Chicago’s federal court against Chicago-based Boeing.
On Tuesday, Edelson asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin to green-light a plan in which Edelson and its insurer would reimburse certain Lion Air plaintiffs whose settlement funds were allegedly stolen by Girardi Keese. It said it would then try to recover that money “from those responsible.” Edelson attached a 67-page draft of the racketeering lawsuit intended for northern California’s federal court as an exhibit.
“The draft is subject to change but is a fair representation of the claims Edelson intends to bring,” Edelson’s J. Eli Wade-Scott wrote.
That draft alleges that Girardi Keese “was little more than a criminal enterprise, disguised as a law firm” and likens its story to “a tale out of a John Grisham novel.” It said that when opportunities for new cases came in, the firm would pay non-lawyers known as “case runners” to secure injured clients. It would strike settlement deals and then allegedly fend off inquiries after settlement money “was funneled into the black hole that was the Girardi Keese scheme.”
It also says that Jayne acted as the “frontwoman,” selling Girardi Keese’s purported success to the world.
“And she was exceptionally good in the role,” the document claims. “With tens of millions of dollars backing her, Erika shamelessly displayed a nationwide showroom of the money they stole on Real Housewives, famously spending $40,000 per month on her ‘look,’ and releasing a song called ‘XXPEN$IVE’ — featuring the refrain ‘It’s expensive to be me.’”
Edelson alleged that Jayne publicly lied about claims against Girardi Keese, including on “Watch What Happens Live” and on reunion episodes of “Real Housewives.” The firm also noted that Jayne’s story about a 2017 car accident Girardi had purportedly been involved in “changed dramatically.” Despite earlier saying Girardi had broken his ankle and “it was fine,” Jayne claimed in a “Housewives” episode filmed around Dec. 14, 2020, that Girardi had driven off the side of a cliff and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“By all accounts, Erika’s new story appears to be fabricated,” the firm alleged.
Weeks after the accident, the firm wrote, Jayne and Girardi filmed a “Housewives” scene in which Girardi “was not wearing any casts, slings, or harnesses of any kind and appeared to be moving his arms and shoulders normally.” Further, it said, local police “have no record of Tom’s accident taking place and have no evidence whatsoever of the crash.”
Meanwhile, the firm pointed out, Jayne told the new story the same day Girardi’s lawyers raised issues about his mental competency in court for the first time.