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Pop Culture

‘Real Housewife’ had real criminal past

Thanks, “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” for proving that if you have a past you'd prefer stay hidden, participation in a reality show is a really bad idea.

Danielle Staub, who was on the receiving end of a flipped dinner table during the show's season finale, has vehemently disputed a depiction of herself outlined in a 1986 book titled “Cop Without a Badge.”

The now out-of-print book claims, among other salacious tidbits, that Staub was a prostitute and deeply involved with Miami-based drug dealers. Staub has refuted many of the book’s claims, but admitted to People magazine that she changed her name, saying “I was arrested — what is the big deal?”

The Smoking Gun can answer that question. The Web site uncovered archived federal court records that provide a detailed account confirming much of what Staub denied or downplayed, and on June 23 published documents that verify Staub’s criminal history.

To summarize: In 1986, Staub (who went by the name Beverly Ann Merrill at the time) was charged with eight felonies, including extortion, cocaine possession, and narcotics conspiracy. Faced with the possibility of a conviction and several decades in prison she decided to play for team America and copped a plea to just one count, receiving five years probation.

If that doesn’t qualify as “big deal,” consider this. Staub told People magazine that she was “never a prostitute. Never.” But according to the documents, she seems to have told a federal agent that she did work for an escort service.

As for Staub’s claims of only ever being “a pothead,” as she’s said in interviews, the substance abuse counselor in her court-ordered drug treatment program made this statement a full two years after Merrill’s sentencing. "Considering the severity of Beverly's drug history and her former drug life style," he recommended that her "mandate for drug aftercare be continued."

Not something you typically hear in relation to marijuana use, especially when, according to documents, the patient in question was caught in an apartment with six kilos of cocaine.

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Read, in full, the documents The Smoking Gun uncovered. Managing Editor Andrew Goldberg says the impetus for finding the documents came when Staub started talking about the claims in the book. “The fact she said it was overblown and lies — hearing that, you figure, it’s probably not lies,” Goldberg said.

In keeping with the salacious theme, watch HBO’s new series “Hung,” which premieres Sunday June 28. The story of an underpaid schoolteacher in Detroit who resorts to the world’s oldest profession (hence the title) is oddly touching.

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.

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