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Just one week before Jen Shah’s telemarketing scam trial was set to begin in Manhattan’s federal court, the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. “I knew this was wrong. I knew people were harmed,” said Shah, 48, who appeared to maintain her composure during the proceeding. “I’m so sorry.”
This morning’s nearly hour-long proceeding started off rote with Judge Sidney Stein asking the besuited Shah questions to determine whether she was of sound enough mind to change her plea — just as he would any other defendant who changed their plea. Has she been under the care of a doctor or psychiatrist? “No.” Has she ever been treated for mental illness or substance abuse? “Yes,” Shah said. “When was that?” stone pressed. “Two years ago.” What is inpatient? “No.” He asked her to elaborate. “It was for alcohol and depression.” Shah said she was not hospitalized in relation to that treatment. “Are you feeling all right?” Stein asked. “Yes,” Shah said. Shah stood as she addressed Stein. She spoke in a steady voice throughout the proceeding. (Her husband was present in the audience.) Stein asked her attorneys, “Do you have any doubt as to her competence at this time?” They answered in the negative. The by-the-book plea proceeding continued.
“Is it true that you want to enter a plea of ’guilty’?” Stein asked Shah. “Yes, Your Honor,” she said. As the proceeding progressed, it became clear that Shah’s guilty plea had dramatic implications. Shah had brokered a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Under this deal, they agreed that an appropriate sentence range would be between 135 and 168 months — 11 to 14 years in federal prison. (Shah is also on the hook for up to $9.5 million in restitution.) However, this recommendation isn’t binding for Stein, who could sentence her to a maximum of 30 years behind bars if he wanted to.
Authorities arrested Shah on March 30, 2021, on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering for her involvement in a “telemarketing scheme.” Her assistant Stuart Smith was also busted. Smith, who appeared frequently on Real Housewives around his then-boss Shah, entered a guilty plea on November 19, 2021. Prosecutors said that between 2012 and March 2021, Shah and Smith “carried out a wide-ranging telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of victims” across the US, “many of whom were over age 55.” The feds said that Shah and Smith did this by promoting questionable “business services.” Shah admitted in court that these business services had “little or no value.”
Prosecutors said today that Shah “primarily acted as a lead broker,” which effectively means that she connected others in this scheme to would-be victims. Shah owned and ran a Manhattan sales floor and supervised the workers, promoting sketchy web and marketing services as part of the scheme. Prosecutor Kiersten A. Fletcher said that Shah took steps to hide her dirty business dealings by moving her operation “offshore to Kosovo” and using encrypted messaging.
As the proceeding neared its conclusion, Stein asked the ultimate question. How did she plead? “Guilty,” Shah said. “Are you pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty?” “Yes, Your Honor,” Shah said. “Ms. Shah, because you acknowledge you are guilty as charged,” Stein said, “I accept your guilty plea and adjudge you guilty of count one.” Shah will be sentenced on November 28. The outspoken RHOSLC fan favorite said nothing as she left court.