“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah, who was accused of running a nationwide telemarketing scheme targeting the elderly, pleaded guilty Monday to television fraud in a dramatic courtroom reversal.
Shah appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan struck a deal with federal prosecutors, changing her guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to defraud.
Before Judge Sidney Stein, Shah struck a deal with federal prosecutors shortly after 10:30 a.m., changing her guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to defraud.
She agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and pay up to $9.5 million in restitution and faces up to 14 years in prison.
Shah, 48, told the court she “knew it was wrong, a lot of people were hurt and I’m very sorry.”
She admitted she “agreed with others about the scam” and “knew it misled” the victims, more than 10 of whom were over 55.
Shah added that there had been a “misrepresentation of the product … as to the value of the service”, noting that it had “little or no value”.
When asked if she knew what she was doing was wrong and illegal, she said, “Yes, your honor.”
Shah’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, told NBC News that her client pleaded guilty “because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family.”
“Ms. Shah is a good woman who crossed the line. She takes full responsibility for her actions and apologizes deeply to all those affected,” she said in a statement. “Ms. Shah also regrets having disappointed her husband, children, family, friends and supporters.”
“Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement after her plea.
“These victims were sold false promises of financial security, but instead Shah and her co-conspirators stole their savings and left them with nothing. “The office is committed to rooting out these schemes, regardless of their form,” he continued.
Shah was earlier scheduled to appear in court next week.
In April 2021, she pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The latter charge will be dismissed, the plea agreement states.
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by NBC News, Shah will not be prosecuted by the Southern District of New York’s office and “at sentencing, the government will move to dismiss any outstanding counts against him. defendant”.
She and her “first assistant,” Stuart Smith, were charged in March 2021 with fraud and money laundering in a scheme in which they “created and sold ‘leader lists’ of innocent individuals to other participants in their scheme for repeat fraud,” US Attorney’s Office said
They operated telemarketing and in-person sales operations in several states that sold “essentially non-existent” services and fought consumers’ attempts to obtain reimbursements from 2012 to 2021, according to the indictment.
“Shah and Smith went to great lengths to conceal their role in the Business Opportunity Scheme. For example, Shah and Smith, among others, registered their businesses using the names of third parties.” indictment said
Smith also pleaded not guilty to the charges in April 2021, but later changed his plea to guilty in November 2021, according to court records. It was not clear Monday if he had been sentenced in the case.
Shah appeared on the first two seasons of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which follows the cast’s extravagant lifestyle.
Bravo, owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, declined to comment.
Shah’s lavish daily life was on full display on the show, including her lavish closet full of designer clothes and handbags. The series also highlighted her group of assistants called the Chess Squad.
She is married to Sharif Shah, cornerbacks/special teams coordinator for the University of Utah football team. According to Office of the State Auditorin fiscal year 2020, he earned about $550,000 in salary and benefits.
During the first Real Housewives of Salt Lake City special, when the cast reflected on the season, Shah was asked why she had so many assistants.
“I need a lot of help, you know? They all do different things. I run a lot of different companies and businesses, and a lot of them have different roles in the companies,” she said.
The show’s executive producer Andy Cohen asked, “People wonder how you got so rich?
She replied, “I’ve been in direct response marketing for about 20 years, so our company does advertising. We have a platform that helps people get customers, so when you’re shopping online or online and something pops up, we have an algorithm that explains why you’re being shown that ad.”
The show’s second season featured Shah’s legal troubles.
Her sentencing is scheduled for November 28.