“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah on Monday pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge for running a multi-state telemarketing scam.
Shah, 48, was arrested last year and charged with ripping off hundreds of victims by running the scheme in six states over a span of 10 years. On Monday, she copped to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in Manhattan federal court.
“From 2012 to March 2021 in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere I agreed with others to commit wire fraud,” Shah, who wore a dark-blue pantsuit, told US District Judge Sidney Stein.
“I did this by knowingly providing customer names to people who were marketing business services that had little or no value,” she said, adding that buyers were “misled about the value and that’s why they bought the services.
“I knew this was wrong,” Shah told the judge. “I know many people were harmed and I am so sorry.”
She faces up to 30 years in prison, the judge said. She is due to be sentenced in the case on November 28.
In a plea deal with prosecutors, Shah and her attorneys agreed to a guideline-range sentence of at least 11 years in prison, but no more than 14 years behind bars — though the judge will have the ultimate say.
Under the agreement, Shah would also pay more than $9 million in restitution and $6,500,000 in forfeiture representing “proceeds traceable to the commission of said offense.”
Shah, who originally pleaded not guilty, had been due to stand trial July 18. At the hearing Monday, Shah revealed she underwent treatment two years ago for alcohol abuse and depression, but said she was not hospitalized during her recovery.
The embattled reality star and her longtime assistant, Stuart Smith, were charged by federal prosecutors with overseeing the long-running scheme even as Shah was filming the hit show.
Smith pleaded guilty in November. Prosecutors revealed at a hearing last week that he was set to testify against Shah at trial.
The scheme reeled in victims from New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Nevada and Utah over the decade, federal prosecutors said.
The pair duped the investors, most of them over 55, to invest in dubious online projects and selling bogus business services from 2012 until this year, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Shah oversaw a crew of telemarketers out of a Manhattan office and duped them into making the phony investments — and pocketing the cash.
On Monday, Assistant US Attorney Kiersten Fletcher said the feds had raked in evidence proving Shah’s guilt – as well as her attempts to cover up the scheme after she learned law enforcement was investigating.
The reality TV star used encrypted apps to discuss the illegal conduct, hid her name from bank accounts associated with the graft and took steps to move the operation to Kosovo after learning people engaged in a similar scheme had been charged by the feds.
Shah also directed one of her co-conspirators to lie under oath about the scheme and provided them with “written talking points” in an attempt to throw off investigators, Fletcher told the judge.
Her husband, Sharrieff Shah, sat in the front row of the courtroom Monday as his wife entered the plea. He closed his eyes at times as she admitted to committing the crime.
Shah and her lawyers declined to comment as they left court after the hour-long hearing.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism