Erika Jayne and her estranged husband, Thomas Girardi, are being accused of attempting to scheme a Hollywood costume design business out of $787,000 — just as Thomas publicly declared he would give $100,000 of his own money to a client he failed to secure a large settlement for.
According to a new report, the alleged “scheme” involving the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star began in 2015, when Lorenzo Robert Savage III, head of the L.A. office of the U.S. Secret Service, hoped to increase a settlement offer made to him by Volkswagen over a defective braking system in his family’s van.
After being left disappointed by the outcome of his Volkswagen Class Action Settlement, Rob brought Thomas to his case in November 2016 as the Secret Service launched an investigation against Marco Marco in regard to potentially unauthorized charges to Erika’s American Express card.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the president, also has the authority to investigate some types of financial crimes, which include credit card fraud.
The Los Angeles Times shared details of both cases, noting that amid concerns over Erika’s growing American Express balance, Thomas agreed to represent Rob and his wife Michelle for free in hopes of scoring a big payout.
But while Thomas may have been motivated by the potential outcome of the case, it’s also worth noting that he and Rob were reportedly friends for decades. In addition, Michelle’s family had known Thomas for even longer, with two of her relatives interning at Girardi Keese years ago.
During a court appearance in December 2016 court, a judge expressed frustration with Thomas regarding the Volkswagen case.
“This whole sequence of events is extremely problematic,” U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. said. “I have a really uneasy feeling about the way that this has gone down in terms of respecting and following my orders, and I can’t tolerate that.”
“If the court thinks I intentionally did something wrong or tried to do anything inappropriate, that doesn’t work with me, so I personally would pay him $100,000,” Thomas replied.
Although the case was dismissed the following day, Rob said he never received the $100,000 payout from Thomas. Instead, he claimed Thomas gave him a check for $7,500, “the exact amount of the Volkswagen Class Action Settlement.”
“My wife and I were happy that we received what we would have received if we had remained in the [lawsuit],” he insisted.
Then, the very next day, after Erika met with Rob at his office in downtown L.A., the Secret Service equipped the RHOBH cast member with a microphone as she met with Christopher Psaila, the owner of costume company Marco Marco, to discuss what she claimed were $800,000 in fraudulent charges.
As the Times explained, Christopher reportedly acknowledged “excess billing” of “just over $100,000″ initially, blaming his bookkeeper and saying he and his partner, designer Marco Morante, “take full liability and responsibility.” However, after Erika said the amount taken was $800,000, Christopher changed his tune, saying he didn’t know “how that would even be possible.”
The following month, in January 2017, Marco Marco was raided. And four months after that, Christopher, who eventually changed his tune on his bookkeeper, was indicted on nine counts, including identity theft and wire fraud, as Erika’s American Express account received a refund of around $787,000.
“We couldn’t even fathom that. It just seemed insane to us,” Marco recalled of the allegations, stating that Erika was not only a customer but a friend (Marco was even featured on an episode of RHOBH).
Throughout his years-long friendship with Erika, Marco designed several outfits for Erika, including ones seen in her music videos for songs such as “How Many F-cks” and “XXpen$ive,” and at the peak, Erika made up 20 to 30 percent of their business. However, when it came to billing, Erika gave her American Express information at her first fitting, telling Christopher and Marco that she didn’t need an invoice.
Although there didn’t appear to be any issues at first, Thomas ultimately confronted Erika about her bill.
“Tom comes home and says, ‘Your Amex charges are really out of control,’” she recalled in an interview.
So, Erika did some research. And after finding an unapproved charge for $5,000, she called Christopher and he reportedly agreed to reverse the charge. But an additional charge was later discovered, which prompted Erika to do a more thorough review — and to arrange her December 2016 meeting with Rob at his downtown office.
Because Erika didn’t have all of her receipts, challenges arose. And despite his initial admission of guilt, Christopher has since declared that all of his charges to Erika’s American Express card were legitimate.
Christopher has also “lost complete trust in the justice system,” giving a nod to the way in which Thomas seemingly swayed the legal system in his favor due to his legal connections (and his friendship with Rob, who retired from the Secret Service in 2018 and insists the two cases were “completely unrelated,” which was not disclosed amid the proceedings).
“That was what I was up against, and that is terrifying,” he stated.
After Christopher was faced with years behind bars and a business that was nearly destroyed, prosecutors quietly dropped the case a year and a half ago amid questions regarding the evidence — and whether or not charges should’ve ever been filed.
Now, the indictment against him is being described as a “scheme” that cost American Express “losses in excess of $700,000,” even though the counts of fraud were based on charges totaling less than $63,000.
According to the Los Angeles Times, American Express, who refunded the money to Erika’s card after being contacted by the Secret Service, did not perform their own investigation, nor did they question Christopher and Marco.
In a statement, a spokesman for American Express said they “followed our regular processes and procedures throughout this investigation as we dealt with law enforcement … We did not play any role in the criminal investigation of Mr. Psaila or his business other than responding to inquiries from law enforcement.”
To fight back against the potentially unfounded charges against him, Christopher used a payout from his father’s life insurance policy to hire a veteran criminal-defense attorney, who ultimately raised questions about the nature of the case, as well as the motivations behind it.
Stanley Greenberg, an ex-federal prosecutor, said it was odd that the Secret Service took on such a “garden variety fraud case.”
“The Secret Service just seemed to have a very intimate role in this whole thing and it included getting money for [Tom Girardi] and not bothering to question one of the main witnesses,” he noted, signaling to Marco. “Everything just reeks of the fact that they were doing some kind of favor.”
And after Christopher provided evidence he claimed proved the legitimacy of 100 disputed charges, Stanley “realized that there wasn’t a discrepancy at all” and reached the point where he wasn’t going to let Christopher plead guilty.
Although Stanley planned to call Thomas and Erika to the stand as witnesses, his subpoenas were quickly met with a call from the prosecutor on the case, who told him the charges were being dismissed.
“She said, ‘We just took another look at the case,’” he said.
In a statement, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in L.A. addressed possible lapses on the part of the Secret Service.
“We ultimately determined that law enforcement evidence preservation issues undermined our ability to prosecute the case and the interests of justice supported dismissal,” the statement said.
But Greenberg said the prosecutor never told him about the lack of evidence.
“It’s an absence of evidence, because they did a sloppy job in the first place,” he stated.
And after attempting to go after Christopher for the $800,000, despite the American Express refund, Erika learned of the dismissal of the case on Twitter.
“I said, ‘How could you do this to me? I am at a terrible point in my life. …This makes me look like a liar,’” she recalled. “Now that my reputation is in the toilet and Tom’s in a home … of course, [they are saying] she did this. There was no reason for me to do this … In no way did I pull a scam to get $760,000 to help anybody get this money. The truth needs to be told here. And it’s not some great fabulous story where I pulled a rabbit out of a hat for money.”
Meanwhile, Christopher has been left to pick up the pieces.
“I’m totally a shell of a human now,” he admitted.
“We really were forced to start from scratch,” Marco added.