Published for Mugs Malone
Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah pleaded guilty to fraud charges Monday, dramatically ending her case as she was set to go to trial on allegations that she partook in a telemarketing scheme that scammed hundreds of people.
“In 2012 to March 2021 … I agreed with others to commit wire fraud,” Shah told New York federal judge Sidney Stein in a prepared statement. “I knew this was wrong. I knew many people were harmed and I’m so sorry.”
Prosecutors revealed that the reality TV series star used relatives’ names instead of her own on financial records as part of the ruse, and she used encrypted apps to communicate with her co-conspirators.
Shah had initially pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering after she was arrested in Utah in March last year. She had maintained that plea even after Stuart Smith, her assistant, changed his to guilty late last year.
Under the terms of a deal with federal prosecutors in New York’s southern district, Shah pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. Prosecutors dropped the conspiracy to commit money laundering charge in exchange for her plea switch.
Pundits regarded the case as the celebrity trial of the summer, but Shah is now simply awaiting a sentencing hearing tentatively set for November.
Prosecutors have asked for a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, restitution of more than $9m to victims and a forfeiture of $6m.
Shah was potentially facing up to 50 years in prison if convicted at trial.
After her arrest in March 2021, Manhattan-based US attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release that Shah, “who portrays herself as a wealthy and successful businessperson on ‘reality’ television, and Stuart Smith, who is portrayed as Shah’s ‘first assistant’, allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam.
“In actual reality and as alleged, the so-called business opportunities pushed on the victims by Shah, Smith and their co-conspirators were just fraudulent schemes, motivated by greed, to steal victims’ money.”
Throughout season two of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, from September 2021 to March this year, Shah talked about her business ventures.
“People will come to me and I’ll invest in their companies, so we have a got a lot of different investments, all different kinds of things,” Shah said of her career on Access Hollywood’s show Housewives Nightcap in November 2020.
“I’ve been able to do it because what I’ve been able to carve out, the niche I’ve been able to carve out in the direct response marketing world.”
Criminal charges against her later produced led to their own Hulu documentary, The Housewife & The Shah Shocker, in which alleged victims of the scheme described how they had been defrauded.
Shah had attempted to use the documentary to have the case thrown out, arguing that it was “reprehensible” and would “severely jeopardize” her right to a fair trial.
Shah and Smith also argued that opinions on the “lavish lifestyle” of “fraudsters” was only an attempt to “poison” the pool of potential jurors for her case.
Shah is the most high-profile of the Real Housewives cast members to face criminal charges. Others, however, have also had brushes with the law.
Leah Sweeney of the Real Housewives of New York was arrested in 2002 during an altercation outside a nightclub. Orange County star Gina Kirschenheiter, Brandi Glanville of Beverly Hills and Marysol Patton of Miami were all arrested for allegations of DUI.
Kelly Bensimon, a former New York housewife, was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of punching her then boyfriend. Luann de Lesseps, a former countess, was arrested in 2017 in Palm Beach and charged with disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest with violence and threatening a public servant.
New Jersey housewife Teresa Giudice and her husband, Joe, were indicted on fraud charges in 2013. Giudice was later sentenced to one year and three months in prison while her husband’s was set at three years and five months.
Meanwhile, New Jersey’s Danielle Staub was arrested with six kilos of cocaine and $16,000 in cash. She pleaded guilty to one count of extortion and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
That case made its way into the pages of Cop Without a Badge, a renowned biography of an undercover informant first published in 1996.
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