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 www.
Now Cristina Carta Villa, 59, is suing her 90-year-old “husband,” Gabriel Villa, to nullify the divorce she never knew about, and keep him from selling an apartment they shared.
The two got married in New York 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.
“He was absolutely charming, and despite our age difference, it was love at first sight,” says Cristina Carta Villa.
Four months after the pair got married, 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.
“It’s a fraud,” she tells The Post.
“It was and somehow it’s still a great love,” Cristina Villa says. “Gabriel is a very charismatic man, strong, intelligent and very charming. I think we could say I was a loving and caring wife and mother.”
But Gabriel allegedly told Dominican authorities life with his wife was “unbearable,” Cristina now alleges in court papers.
Even though the couple didn’t live in the Dominican Republic, Gabriel launched the legal dissolution there. He hired lawyers to represent each spouse and cited “incompatibility of temperaments” 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 wasn’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.
The wife says in court papers she “has 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.” If legal authority was given, she was either “surreptitiously impaired, drugged or misled” into giving it, claim court papers.
“I 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. It’s what is hurting me the most,” she says.
The divorce isn’t even legal in the Dominican Republic, Cristina argues, because neither spouse appeared in the court, and the split wasn’t published in a newspaper as required by Dominican law.