'Real Housewives' star Jennifer Shah pleads guilty in telemarketing scheme

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Monday, July 11, 2022
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Shah's guilty plea in federal court in Manhattan means she will now face up to 14 years in prison.

LOWER MANHATTAN, New York City -- "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jennifer Shah pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan Monday to criminal charges stemming from a telemarketing scheme and faces up to 14 years in prison.

She also has to pay $9.5 million in restitution and forfeit $6.5 million.

"Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. "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 and others were accused of carrying out a wide-ranging telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of people throughout the U.S., many of whom were over age 55.

"At this time Ms. Shah would like to withdraw her plea of not guilty," defense attorney Priya Chaudhry said at the start of Monday's change-of-plea hearing.

Shah, 48, was sworn in and gave her full name, Jennifer Keikilani Shah, before the judge asked a series of questions.

"Do you wish to enter a plea of guilty to count 1?" Judge Sidney Stein asked.

"Yes, your honor," Shah replied.

Count 1 charged Shah with attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

"In 2012 to March 2021 in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, I agreed with others to commit wire fraud," Shah told Judge Stein as she read from a prepared statement. "I knew this was wrong. I knew many people were harmed, and I'm so sorry."

Under questioning from the judge, Shah said her scheme made misrepresentations of the value of the services being sold. They had no value, she said.

"Did you know what you were doing was wrong and illegal?" Stein asked.

"Yes, your honor," Shah replied.

She initially pleaded not guilty and was scheduled to stand trial beginning next week.

Federal prosecutors have said Shah and her assistant Stuart Smith, who also pleaded guilty, were among those "responsible for orchestrating the broader scheme" and supplied "leads that sustained sales floors."

Like many of its counterpart franchises, the "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" is known for portraying the lavish lifestyles of its cast members.

"Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their 'success,'" Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter Fitzhugh said after Shah and Smith's arrest. "In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people."

Shah is due to be sentenced on November 28.