Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’s Jen Shah has today pleaded guilty to federal charges of organizing a $5million telemarketing scam which preyed on hundreds of elderly people.
The star, 48, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, with the US attorney dropping her second count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The US attorney’s office says Shah faces the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, but NBC Connecticut reports that a plea deal will actually see her serve a maximum of 14 years.
As part of her guilty plea, the reality star also agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and to pay restitution up to $9.5 million.
Addressing the court, the reality star said that she ‘knew it was wrong’ and that she was ‘so sorry’ for the ‘many people’ who were harmed.
Shah admitted that she ‘agreed with others to commit with wire fraud’ and ‘knew it misled’ victims, over 10 of whom were over the age of 55.
Shah added there was a ‘misrepresentation of the product… regarding value of the service,’ noting it ‘had little to no value.’
When asked by US District Judge Stein if she knew what she was doing was wrong and illegal, Shah replied, ‘Yes, your honor.’
Priya Chaudhry, representing Shah told DailyMail.com: ‘Ms. Shah is a good woman who crossed a line. She accepts full responsibility for her actions and deeply apologizes to all who have been harmed.
‘Ms. Shah is also sorry for disappointing her husband, children, family, friends, and supporters. Jen pled guilty because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family.’
Jen Shah, pictured today outside of court, has pleaded guilty to the federal charges she is accused of, and is facing a maximum of 14 years in prison
US District Judge Stein approved a plea hearing to take place at 10.30am this morning, with Shah changing her plea to guilty
Shah’s assistant Stuart Smith, 43, pictured at the initial brief hearing, has also pleaded guilty to his part in the scam
She is also facing the possibility of paying out $16million in fines and restitution, and told the court she knew what she was doing was ‘wrong’
The mother-of-two initially denied the charges against her, but today pleaded guilty just eleven days before her trial was set to be heard
Woah: Bravo cameras caught the moment Jen Shah fled the set of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City after an ominous phone call alerted her that authorities were on the way and she needed to head out
Jen Shah flaunted her wealth on the Bravo show, as well as regularly fighting with other members of the cast. She brazenly accused Meredith Marks of being ‘fraudulent’ during a relationship healing dinner gone awry
Shah shamelessly flaunted her wealth on the Bravo show, gifting her co-stars diamond necklaces and hosting lavish parties in their honor.
She was never without a designer outfit or handbag, and boasted about the size of her walk-in closets. Shah has been on the Salt Lake City franchise of the show since its premiere.
Her storyline originally centered around her converting to Islam for her football-coach husband, and facing racism in the largely white, Mormon community in Utah.
Her extreme spending and extreme fighting with castmates quickly became focal points of the popular reality show, but they were quickly overshadowed by her legal woes.
Shah was dramatically arrested during filming in March 2021 along with assistant Stuart Smith on suspicion of the federal offences.
Her arrest was caught on camera by Bravo, with the star begging them to ‘turn off’ the cameras after she suddenly abandoned filming – claiming there was an emergency with her husband Sharrieff Shah.
Sharrieff, a special teams coordinator for the University of Utah’s football team, received a call from Homeland Security informing him that they were looking for his wife.
Dramatic footage shows Shah leaving filming as the cast were about to leave on a trip to Colorado, with officers caught on camera asking for her whereabouts before she was arrested.
Her storyline originally centered around her converting to Islam for her football-coach husband, who admitted his ‘heart stopped’ when he realized that his wife had been arrested
The RHOSLC star was being ‘forced out of $4M Utah rental home’ as it goes up for sale before fraud trial
Des res: The home boasts a fireplace and open plan living room which she dubbed the ‘Shah Chalet’
The Bravo star admitted that she ‘agreed with others to commit with wire fraud’ and ‘knew it misled’ victims
‘Can you turn this off? Can you turn it off?’ she said before jumping out of the van and hurrying off in another car
Shah regularly boasted of her lavish wealth online, posing with designer handbags and extravagant diamond jewelery on her social media
Smith pleaded guilty in November last year and had agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their case against his old boss – a factor which likely contributed to her switching her plea on Monday.
How reality TV star Shah and her assistant masterminded the telemarketing scam worth $5million while flaunting their lavish lifestyles
Shah and Smith worked with other unknown participants to sell their victims ‘business services’ between 2012 to March 2021 – when they were arrested.
The victims were told that their businesses would be made more efficient or profitable, and would include tax preparation and website design services.
Each victim was given a physical or electronic pamphlets for a ‘coaching session’ to improve their online businesses.
But Shah and Smith never intended to earn any of the promised return on their investments.
They shared lists of potential victims, or ‘leads’ – many of whom had previously invested in online businesses – with other telemarketers who bombarded victims with calls.
The indictment states that ‘leads’ to unsuspecting victims were generated by sales floors operating in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and elsewhere.
Those sales floors would then work with telemarketing sales floors in New York and New Jersey, giving a list of potential ‘leads’ knowing that the individuals would be defrauded.
The different sales teams coordinated with each other to prevent victims from getting refunds
Shah and Smith both pocketed a share of the fraudulent revenue, and often controlled each aspect of the frauds by deciding which sales floor could buy their leads.
They would select the sales floor that they were allowed to pass the leads along to, setting out how much they could charge and which ‘product’ could be sold.
The indictment also states that the pair personally ‘generated and sold leads’ for use by the telemarketing teams, using their fame to persuade alleged victims to sign up.
Shah is accused of defrauding hundreds of elderly people across the country in a wide-spread telemarketing scheme.
She was charged in March last year, along with her assistant Stuart Smith who has also pleaded guilty.
The Bravo star initially pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit money laundering through telemarketing.
The US attorney’s office say that Shah used third parties’ names in an attempt to distance herself from the crimes.
She used and directed others to use encrypted messaging applications to communicate with other Participants and made numerous cash withdrawals structured to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements.
During the reunion show in March this year, Shah sobbed as she declared that she was ‘fighting’ the charges.
She said: ‘I’m innocent. I will fight this for every person out there that can’t fight for themselves because they don’t have the resources or the means, so they don’t fight.
‘I will fight because number one, I’m innocent, and number two I’m going to f***ing represent every other person out there that can’t fight and hasn’t been able to.’
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: ‘Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims.
‘These victims were sold false promises of financial security but instead Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it.
‘This Office is committed to rooting out these schemes whatever form they take.’
The NYPD previously alleged that Shah had ‘hundreds’ of victims, with the alleged scam reportedly running for at least nine years – starting in 2012.
Prosecutors claim that Shah orchestrated the complicated scheme to generate lists of potential victims, with the majority aged over 55.
She is accused of then selling those leads to telemarketing companies which would in turn try to sell business services to the victims.
Shah would then receive a share of the fraudulent revenue that the telemarketers generated according to court documents.
Last month, she filed to prevent prosecutors from using clips from the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City at her fraud trial.
The TV personality, 48 stated she does not want ‘any clips from the RHOSLC’ used as evidence in court.
Jen was a volatile presence in the first season of RHOLSC, with her blowups over pretty much everything causing friction with her costars and fans who watched the show.
She joined the first season, which was filmed in 2019 and aired in 2020 – and continued to be part of the show despite her arrest.
Atlanta teacher Marie Walker, 67, told an ABC documentary that she had been duped by the scam when she attempted to start a health and beauty business during the pandemic.
She claims she clicked an online ad to help her work from home before being inundated with calls from all kinds of companies – including Mastery Pro.
Mastery Pro is one of the alleged shell companies set up by Shah, with Marie losing $18,000 to the scam – though she is not included in the charges against Shah.
She said: ‘From Mastery Pro I did purchase a social media package, but I would need to send in $1,000 from my bank for a social media boost package.
Shah’s attorney told DailyMail.com that she was a ‘good woman who crossed a line’ adding that she was sorry for ‘disappointing her husband, children, family, friends, and supporters’
Shah previously created’#FreeJenShah’ t-shirts, with some merch featuring her face printed on them from the moment she was arrested by federal authorities
Last month, she filed to prevent prosecutors from using clips from the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City at her fraud trial
Bravo caught the moment Homeland Security officers came looking for Shah while she was filming. ‘We’re looking for Jen Shah,’ a voice could be heard asking for the housewife
Jen Shah accused Meredith Marks of being ‘fraudulent’ during a relationship healing dinner gone awry on Sunday’s episode of The Real Housewives Of Salt Lake City
Sharrieff revealed that his ‘heart just stopped’ when he found out his wife had been arrested. He told Bravo ‘I found law enforcement officers with guns some of which pointed at my baby’
‘In January 2021, I started having a lot of problems with the website. I was trying to reach the marketing, the coaching, the website builders and I just couldn’t reach anybody. There was no website, nothing.
‘My head was really spinning there, I said, ‘Oh, this is just a scam.’ I contacted all my credit card companies, my banks, I contacted the police departments, made reports, contacted the FTC’
‘I put in a total about $18,000, I did get back some on my credit cards, about $8,000, but the rest is list.
‘If Jen Shah has been proven to scam people or defraud people, she needs to be punished, if I can talk to the people that scammed me, I would say, “Would you do this to your mother? To your sister? And why, why would you do this … and why would you keep doing it?”’
Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations New York, Rick Patel told the documentary that Shah’s arrest on the day she was filming was a coincidence.
He explained: ‘In any of our operations, we don’t look for specific timing to do our arrest.
‘In the case of Jen Shah, she had a television crew that was following her on a regular basis, so it was not planned in any way.
‘Our investigators and special agents need to do our jobs and I’m happy to say they did it without incident and she was taken into custody.’
According to court documents, obtained by Page Six, her defense claims the footage ‘do not have any of the indicia of reliability’ and ‘highly edited and crafted through post-production.’
Shah even released ‘not guilty’ merch ahead of the upcoming fraud trial before today’s surprising U-turn.
She promoted’#FreeJenShah’ t-shirts, and had some tees featuring her face printed on them from the moment she was arrested by federal authorities.
Shah is set to be sentenced for her crimes on November 28.