Former ‘Real Housewives’ star’s ex faces felony charges after standoff at Newport Beach home

An aerial view of beachgoers
Newport Beach police arrested a man after an hours-long standoff Tuesday at a home on the Balboa Peninsula belonging to former “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Elizabeth Lyn Vargas. Above, the Newport Beach coast.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A man suspected of threatening to kill a former “Real Housewives of Orange County” cast member after extorting tens of thousands of dollars from her in exchange for not leaking nude photos was charged with multiple felonies, authorities said Thursday.

Ryan Matthew Geraghty, 33, of Los Angeles faces one count each of extortion by force or threat, assault with a firearm, making criminal threats, corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, grossly negligent discharge of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

He also faces two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and a felony enhancement of personally using a firearm, which prohibits a judge from offering him probation because of his violent criminal record, prosecutors said.


Geraghty was arrested by Newport Beach police Tuesday after a standoff at the home of a woman with whom he had had a romantic relationship, prosecutors said.

Authorities did not publicly name the woman, but her identity was confirmed as former “Real Housewives” cast member Elizabeth Lyn Vargas by her manager, David Weintraub.

Officers responded to a call for a welfare check at 1:51 p.m. at the home in the 100 block of Medina Way on the Balboa Peninsula, police said.

After arriving, officers “observed an emergency situation that warranted the immediate evacuation of the victim from the residence,” police said.

SWAT teams were requested, and East Balboa Boulevard between Island Avenue and Coronado Street was closed during the standoff. Police entered the home hours later and arrested Geraghty, authorities said.

Weintraub issued a statement to City News Service saying his client was “doing great now.”

“She wants to thank the Newport Beach Police Department and SWAT teams for saving her from harm’s way,” he said. “This was a traumatic experience for her and she feels blessed that she survived.”


Geraghty’s alleged extortion began on Christmas Eve, when authorities believe he started demanding money from Vargas in exchange for not selling nude photos of her to the media, prosecutors said.

After she told Geraghty that she wouldn’t give him more money, prosecutors said, he punched her in the face. “When she attempted to cut him off again, he pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her,” they said.

At some point, he forced Vargas to buy him a BMW, prosecutors said.

On Jan. 31, Geraghty shot a gun into the home’s ceiling during an argument while Vargas hid in a closet, prosecutors said.

The violence culminated Tuesday when investigators say he called her to say he was coming for her because he claimed she had stolen his car, prosecutors said.

“He then came to her house with a gun, which he pointed in her face, threatening to kill her,” prosecutors said. “Newport Beach police arrested Geraghty when they heard a struggle over the phone while attempting to contact the victim.”

Geraghty, who is considered to be a “third-striker” by authorities, pleaded guilty to burglary in 2008 and was sentenced to 180 days in Los Angeles County jail and three years of probation, court records show.


In 2016, he pleaded no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

In 2020, he pleaded no contest to being in possession of ammunition and no contest to possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell.

He was sentenced to a state prison term, 18 days in Los Angeles County jail and three years of formal probation, court records show.

“There are some members of our society who are so violent that they cannot live among the rest of us,” said Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer. “California’s Three Strikes Law was designed to protect law-abiding residents from being subjected to a never-ending campaign of violence by individuals who have no respect for the law and no respect for human life.”

If convicted on all charges, Geraghty faces a maximum sentence of 75 years and four months to life in prison.

Times staff writer Hannah Fry and City News Service contributed to this report.