A week before “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” cast member Jen Shah was scheduled to face trial in New York City on federal fraud charges, she changed her plea early Monday to guilty.
Shah faced charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering as part of an alleged telemarketing scheme that, according to federal prosecutors, preyed on elderly people.
In her Monday morning appearance before a federal judge, which was a relative surprise, Shah admitted to the wire fraud charge. As part of her plea agreement, the money laundering charge was dropped.
‘Nationwide’ fraud scheme victimized hundreds, prosecutors say
At the time of her arrest in March 2021, prosecutors alleged that Shah and her assistant/partner Stuart Smith — who changed his plea to guilty in November 2021 — “flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their success” as they ran a fraudulent telemarketing scheme that took advantage of hundreds of “vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people.”
According to charging documents, Shah and Smith generated and sold thousands of “leads” to other participants in the telemarketing scheme, which involved selling victims bogus services under the guise of helping them create their own online businesses. The pair knew those those leads “would be defrauded by the other participants,” court records state.
”Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “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.”
Shah was arrested in the midst of filming Season 2 of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” and — in addition to her initial not-guilty plea — she repeatedly declared her innocence on the Bravo show.
“What I have been accused of is absolutely the complete opposite of anything I would ever do in my life,” she said in one episode. “If I have any fault, it is because I am too giving and I help too many people.”
‘I knew this was wrong’
In the show, Shah went on to say that the “worst part” about her arrest was how it was affecting her husband — University of Utah assistant football coach Sharrieff Shah — and her sons, which was “killing me,” she said. “I don’t want them to hurt.”
ABC News reported that when Jen Shah appeared in court on Monday, she read a statement admitting that she conspired to commit wire fraud.
“I knew this was wrong. I knew many people were harmed and I’m so sorry,” the statement reportedly read. Questioned by the judge, Shah admitted that she knew what she did was illegal.
Her attorneys released a statement describing Shah as “a good woman who crossed a line.”
“She accepts full responsibility for her actions and deeply apologizes to all who have been harmed,” the statement reads, adding that Shah is “also sorry for disappointing her husband, children, family, friends and supporters” and that she wants to “pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family.”
Shah is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 28. She faces up to 30 years in prison.
As part of her plea agreement, Shah agreed not to appeal if she is sentenced to no more than 14 years in prison. The judge is not bound by her plea agreement.
Shah also agreed to forfeit $6 million and pay $9.5 in restitution to her victims.
Will Shah still be on ‘RHOSLC’?
Although she’s potentially facing a long prison term, Shah will still to be part of “RHOSLC,” which completed production of its third season earlier this year.
No premiere date for the new season has been announced, but new episodes are expected to begin airing sometime this fall.
A spokesperson with Bravo on Monday said the network had no comment on Shah’s guilty plea.