Shah reversed her plea in a last-minute move, and the outcome will result in millions of dollars in payouts and years of prison time.
Jen Shah pleads guilty to wire fraud in a last-minute reversal.
Shah, who appeared on both seasons of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City between 2020 and 2022, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The guilty plea took place in front of U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein.
Shah initially pleaded not guilty, but changed her tune after reaching an agreement with federal prosecutors. The telemarketing scheme in question targeted eldery Americans. Last year, when the U.S. Department of Justice first charged Shah and her co-conspirator Stuart Smith with the fraud scheme, Manhattan U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said they “generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam.” The scam took place from 2012 until 2021.
As part of the plea agreement, Shah’s charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering has been tossed.
The fraud charges will lead to millions of dollars in payouts.
As part of the guilty plea, Shah agreed to pay $9.5 million in restitution charges and forfeit another $6.5 million in earnings. A 48-year-old whose reality star days are presumably behind her, Shah said in court that she knew what she was doing was wrong. “Many people were harmed and I’m so sorry,” she said.
Jen Shah still faces sentencing.
Shah could spend up to 14 years in prison for the whole ordeal. She reportedly changed her tune and pleaded guilty “because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family,” defense attorney Priya Chaudhry told reporters.
While Shah’s attorney paints her as a remorseful albeit good samaritan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams had stronger words. “Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims,” 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. This Office is committed to rooting out these schemes whatever form they take.”
According to psychologists, the crossover between reality TV show star and scammer makes sense. That’s because they both maintain narcissistic tendencies. Stanford and Santa Clara University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Plante said scammers “do and take what they please and find a way to justify it given their superiority, importance, or desire.”
That’s why Shah isn’t alone at the reality TV and fraud intersection. Todd and Julie Chrisley, stars of USA Network’s Chrisley Knows Best and other shows, were convicted of bank fraud and tax evasion in June.
Shah is still a few months out from her sentencing, which is poised to take place on November 28. Still, the prospect of prison time is certain.