A judge has ruled that Thomas Girardi’s ex-clients, Joseph Ruigomez, Jaime Ruigomez, and Kathleen Ruigomez, can pursue a collections lawsuit against Tom’s estranged wife, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star, Erika Jayne.
The family has been given the green light to collect the $11 million owed to them by the disgraced lawyer, per a 2020 lawsuit. The judge previously placed a stay on Tom’s assets amid an ongoing Chapter 7 bankruptcy investigation against the attorney and his law firm, Girardi Keese. The trustee’s special litigation counsel confirmed that Girardi Keese transferred $20 million to the reality star’s businesses, which opened the door for the Ruigomez family to go after the Bravo star.
“All assets identified by the Ruigomez family shall be subject to all rights of the Girardi bankruptcy estate and the [Girardi Keese] bankruptcy estate, which parties shall meet and confer in good faith to determine the character/ownership of the identified assets,” the new document states. “The Ruigomez Family, the Girardi Trustee and the GK Trustee shall cooperate with each other with their collection efforts against Erika.”
As previously reported—Girardi and his firm, Girardi Keese, repped Ruigomez in a personal injury lawsuit filed against Pacific Gas and Electric Company. A San Bruno gas pipeline explosion injured several people in September 2010, and Ruigomez suffered burns over 90% of his body. Ruigomez’s girlfriend, Jessica Morales, was killed in the blast.
PG&E agreed to settle the lawsuit with a $11 million payout, but Ruigomez claimed that Girardi never delivered the payment in full. The family stated in court documents that Girardi received the funds but instead of giving them the cash, he promised to “invest” the money for them. The lawyer told them that the investment would guarantee a rate of at least 6.5%. Girardi reportedly came through with a couple of installments, but the family demanded the full amount after the payments stopped.
“Despite repeated promises to pay the Ruigomezs their remaining amount due, Debtor and GK failed to pay the Ruigomezs the entirety of their funds due and owing,” the legal docs state.
The Ruigomez family does not believe that Girardi actually invested the funds, in light of the lawyer’s own financial issues. The family’s story was featured in the recently aired ABC News documentary, “The Housewife and the Hustler.” Joe told his story and shared his belief that Tom conned them out of their settlement money.
Joe alleged that the payments dropped off completely in 2017, which led the family to pursue litigation to recover the remaining funds. Tom supposedly agreed to pay them $12 million last year, signing a statement promising a $1 million initial payment with a follow-up payment of $2.5 million.
“He never got to the second payment,” Kathy Ruigomez, Joe’s mother, alleged.
The new development is only the latest in a long string of legal scandals facing the ex-couple. Erika filed for divorce from Tom in November.
As previously reported, shortly after the news of the breakup broke, class action firm Edelson PC accused the couple of embezzling settlement funds for families of the victims of Lion Air Flight 610, a crash that killed 189 people, in 2018. The law firm accused the couple of staging the split because they “are on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds.”
Ronald Richards, the attorney hired to investigate Erika’s assets, recently asked the court to allow him to question those surrounding the reality star, including her divorce lawyer, Larry Ginsburg. He is asking for copies of Erika’s payments to the firm because an examination of the attorney will “also potentially identify any aiders and abettors assisting Erika in hiding the Debtor’s assets. Payments to an attorney are not privileged nor are Harris Ginsburg’s financial records.” Richards also wants to depose Erika’s business manager/accountant, Michael J. Ullman, who helped Erika to create one of her businesses, Pretty Mess, Inc.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs on Wednesdays, at 9 pm, ET, on Bravo.