The "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Erika Girardi, also known as Erika Jayne, is noted for her lavish and exorbitant lifestyle. Her 2017 song "XXPEN$IVE" illustrates this with lyrics such as, "It's expensive to be me/ Looking this good don't come for free” and, “That's just who I be/ it's expensive to be me."
Despite this, her estranged husband Tom Girardi, whom she is currently in the process of divorcing, recently testified in a California court that he is broke.
Who is Tom Girardi?
Girardi, a consumer law attorney who has been practicing law since 1965, rose to prominence for his high-profile 1993 case against energy giant Pacific Gas and Electric Company and its role in the contamination of groundwater in the small town of Hinkley, California. The case became the basis for the 2000 blockbuster “Erin Brockovich” and elevated the prestige of his law firm, Girardi Keese. Since then, his firm continued to handle many multi-million dollar settlements, often involving class action suits against major corporations.
When did Girardi meet Erika Jayne?
In 1999, Girardi married Jayne, then Erika Chahoy, after the pair met while she was a cocktail waitress at the famed Los Angeles restaurant Chasen's, where Girardi was a regular for many years.
Earlier this week, an in-depth exposé in the Los Angeles Times explored the financial troubles of the high-profile couple whose notability was based more on their wealth than anything else. Girardi, 81, described his financial trouble in court documents filed in October and obtained by TODAY. When asked about how much money he had in a personal account, Girardi answered, "Not a lot. Maybe a couple thousand. I don't have any money."
“At one point, I had about 80 million or 50 million in cash,” he also said. “That's all gone. I also had a stock portfolio of about 50 million, and that's all gone.”
Where did the money go?
On Oct. 29, 2018, a new Boeing 737 MAX 8 carrying 189 passengers and crew members crashed shortly after takeoff in Jakarta, Indonesia. Everyone on board the Lion Air flight died. Girardi and his law firm were hired to represent surviving relatives of the crash, and a suit filed earlier this month alleges Girardi and his firm embezzled millions of dollars that were intended to go to some of those family members. Girardi and his law firm have been ordered to file their responses in the case on Dec. 21.
The lawsuit alleged that Girardi and his firm “are on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds” and his “need to fund outrageous lifestyles for himself and his soon-to-be ex-wife Erika Jayne” is the reason for her divorce filing in November.
On. Nov. 3, Jayne released a statement saying she and Girardi were calling it quits after 21 years of marriage. “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi," she said. "This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together.
"It is my absolute wish to proceed through this process with respect and with the privacy that both Tom and I deserved," she added. "I request others give us that privacy as well."
But since then, lawyers are alleging that their divorce "is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect the Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm GK.”
After Girardi was ordered to freeze all of his assets on Dec. 14, lawyers began to request that Jayne freeze her assets as well despite her divorce filing, according to court documents obtained by TODAY.
On Dec. 18., attorneys for the crash victims went to court ordering Jayne to stop reselling her designer clothes she had acquired during her marriage on the theory that the attire is community property in which Girardi has an interest. The filing said that Jayne "continues to offer tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of her designer clothing for sale on the secondhand market, and has recently promoted that offering on her Twitter account (at a 10% discount)." The motion pointed to a tweet of hers from Dec. 16 where she promoted a sale to her fans and followers on the secondhand clothing website Vestiaire Collective, a company based in France that allows individuals to sell their used designer clothes.
The documents also allege that Jayne “may be attempting to move Tom Girardi’s assets outside the United States by selling them through a French company” and that even though she “is not herself a party to the asset freeze order, she is bound by it.”
According to California court records two involuntary bankruptcy petitions were filed on Dec. 18 against Girardi.
These court motions and orders come as Jayne is hurling more allegations on social media regarding her marriage to the lawyer. On Dec. 18, the 49-year-old reality TV star and singer posted and then deleted text messages that she claims were between Girardi and an alleged mistress. Screenshots of her posts were shared on Twitter by PEOPLE reporter Dave Quinn, who captioned the post, “A pretty MESS, alright. Wow.”
Representatives for Jayne declined to comment. Edelson PC, the attorneys representing the family members of Lion Air victims, declined to comment. A lawyer for Tom Girardi declined comment.
A telephonic hearing has been set for Jayne on Tuesday, Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court. If she does not have an attorney the judge wrote in a filing, Jayne must be present on the call herself.