“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah, who was accused of running a nationwide telemarketing program targeting seniors, pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud in a dramatic courtroom reversal.
Shah appeared before Judge Sidney Stein of the US District Court in Manhattan and struck a deal with federal prosecutors, turning her plea to guilty in one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Shortly after 10:30 a.m., before Judge Sidney Stein, Shah entered into an agreement with federal prosecutors, changing her plea to guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and pay a restitution of up to $9.5 million and faces up to 14 years in prison.
Shah, 48, said in court that she “knew it was wrong, a lot of people got hurt and I’m so sorry.”
She admitted that she had “agreed with others to commit fraud” and “knew it was misleading the victims”, more than 10 of whom were over the age of 55.
Shah added that there was a “misrepresentation of the product…in relation to the value of the service”, noting that it had “little to no value”.
When asked if she knew what she was doing was wrong and illegal, she replied, “Yes, Your Honor.”
Shah’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, told NBC News that her client pleaded guilty “because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family.”
“Mrs Shah is a good woman who has crossed a line. She accepts full responsibility for her actions and offers her deepest apologies to all those who have been harmed,” she said in a statement. “Mrs Shah also regrets disappointing her husband, children, family, friends and supporters.”
“Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide settlement targeting elderly, vulnerable victims,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement following her plea.
“These victims were sold false promises of financial security, but instead Shah and her co-conspirators cheated them out of their savings, leaving nothing behind. This agency is committed to eradicating these schemes in whatever form,” he continued.
Shah was previously scheduled to face trial early next week.
She pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in April 2021.
The final charge will be thrown out, the plea agreement states.
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by NBC News, Shah will not face further criminal charges from the New York Southern District office and “at the time of sentencing, the government will review all outstanding charges against the defendant.”
She and her “first assistant,” Stuart Smith, were charged in March 2021 with committing fraud and money laundering in a scheme in which they generated and sold “master lists” of innocent individuals so as to repeatedly scam other members of their scheme, ” the US Attorney’s Office said.
They ran multi-state telemarketing and personal sales teams charged with selling “essentially nonexistent” services and fighting consumer efforts to obtain refunds from 2012 to 2021.
“Shah and Smith have made significant efforts to conceal their role in the Business Opportunity Scheme. For example, Shah and Smith have incorporated their business entities with the names of third parties,’ the charge said.
Smith also pleaded not guilty to the charges in April 2021, but later changed his plea to guilty in November 2021, court records show. It was not clear Monday whether he had been convicted in the case.
Shah appeared in Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” highlighting the cast’s extravagant lifestyle in the first two seasons.
Bravo, owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, declined to comment.
Shah’s lavish everyday life was fully featured on the show, including her luxurious closet full of designer clothes and bags. The series also highlighted her group of assistants dubbed the “Shah Squad.”
She is married to Sharrieff Shah, a cornerbacks/special teams coordinator for the University of Utah soccer team. According to the Office of the State Auditorhe earned approximately $550,000 in wages and benefits in fiscal year 2020.
During the first “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” reunion special, when cast members look back on the season, Shah was asked why she needed so many assistants.
‘I need a lot of help, you know? They all do different things. I run a lot of different companies and businesses, and a lot of them have different roles in the companies,” she said.
The show’s executive producer, Andy Cohen, then asked, “People wonder how you got so rich?
She replied: “My background has been in direct response marketing for 20 years, so our company does advertising. We have a platform that helps people acquire customers, so if you’re shopping online or on the web and something pops up, we’ve got the algorithm behind why you’re seeing that ad.”
The show’s second season featured Shah’s legal troubles.
Her sentencing is set for November 28.