They were married for 20 years, raising a son and living the
good life jetting between homes in New York and France. It was all
perfect, except for one thing: He had secretly divorced her just
months after their wedding, in an apparent attempt to shield his
Now Cristina Carta Villa, 59, is suing her 90-year-old â€œhusband,â€ Gabriel Villa, to nullify the divorce she never knew about and keep him from selling an apartment they shared.
The two met at a friendâ€™s house, quickly tying the knot in a New York ceremony in 1994. She left her job teaching Italian literature at Boston College to be with the lawyer and travel agent more than 30 years her senior.
â€œHe was absolutely charming, and despite our age difference, it was love at first sight,â€ says Cristina Carta Villa.
But all the while, Gabriel was apparently hedging his bets. Four
months after the pair tied the knot, Gabriel Villa secretly
arranged for a divorce in the Dominican Republic.
The wife says she never knew about, let alone consented to, a Dominican divorce, which was never registered in New York.
â€œItâ€™s a fraud,â€ she tells The Post.
The two bought a one-bedroom condo on West 55th Street; had a son, Lorenzo; and divided their time among Manhattan, Massachusetts and France.
â€œIt was and somehow itâ€™s still a great love,â€ Cristina Villa says. â€œGabriel is a very charismatic man, strong, intelligent and very charming. I think we could say I was a loving and caring wife and mother.â€
When her husband was ill in the hospital, Cristina says,
â€œI was always at his side.â€ He even
made her his health-care proxy and gave her power of attorney.
But Gabriel allegedly told Dominican authorities life with his wife was â€œunbearable,â€ Cristina now alleges in court papers.
Even though the couple didnâ€™t live in the Dominican Republic, Gabriel launched the legal dissolution there. He hired lawyers to represent each spouse and cited â€œincompatibility of temperamentsâ€ as the reason for the split, Cristina claims in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.
Cristina found out about it only in November when a tax bill arrived for their Manhattan home and her name wasnâ€™t on it. She hired a lawyer to investigate, only to learn that Gabriel had tried to remove her name from the deed, using the Dominican Republic proceeding as proof she was not an owner, she charges.
The wife says in court papers she â€œhas no recollection of [giving] any authorization to anyone to proceed with a divorce, or even thinking about divorce from the man she had just recently married.â€ If legal authority was given, she was either â€œsurreptitiously impaired, drugged or misledâ€ into giving it, claim court papers.
â€œI realize now that during all these years of joy and happiness, and of difficult moments we shared together, my husband lied to me and had the Dominican divorce on the back of his mind. Itâ€™s what is hurting me the most,â€ she says.
The divorce isnâ€™t even legal in the Dominican
Republic, Cristina argues, because neither spouse appeared in the
court, and the split wasnâ€™t published in a
newspaper as required under Dominican law.
Cristina believes greed is behind the divorce duplicity.
Gabriel is â€œusing an illegal and fraudulent divorce .â€‰.â€‰. to rob her,â€ Cristina charges.
She believes her husband wants to sell the apartment to his adult daughter, Marina Villa, who lives in Rome. One-bedroom condos in the Midtown building sell for roughly $1.4 million, records show.
Source: NY Post