Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison by a federal judge at a Manhattan courthouse on Friday for stealing money from thousands of people in a wide-ranging, nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme.
“I accept complete responsibility for my bad conduct,” Shah wrote in a statement before her sentencing, reports CBS Los Angeles. “My poor judgment and bad business associations caused innocent people to lose their money and be victimized by investing in poorly structured businesses/products that I influenced or controlled. For that, I am genuinely sorry and I will work for the rest of my life to make it right.”
In July, Shah pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which constituted operating a telemarketing scam that cheated people, most of whom were senior citizens, out of thousands of dollars. On Friday, she was sentenced before the U.S. District Court. The Justice Department had been gunning for her to spend 10 years in prison and her lawyers argued for a three-year sentence. Shah also agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and pay up to $9.5 million in restitution,
According to the indictment, Shah and her assistant began the scheme in at least 2012; the duo “generated and sold lead lists to other participants for use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as ‘leads’ would be defrauded by the other participants.”
A Dec. 23 filing from the Justice Department called Shah “the most culpable person charged in this case,” and “an integral leader of a wide-ranging, nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimized thousands of innocent people”
Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote; “At the defendant’s direction, victims were defrauded over and over again until they had nothing left. She and her co-conspirators persisted in their conduct until the victims’ bank accounts were empty, their credit cards were at their limits, and there was nothing more to take.”
The impact on victims of Shah’s scheme is staggering. One Canadian woman wrote in her victim impact statement that she had lost over $100,000 through the scam’s promise to help her start a new business, according to NBC News. When she realized what she’d lost, the victim had to remortgage her house; the stress of the situation nearly led to a divorce.
“The burden you have caused me is overwhelming; I can’t even really put words to the amount of anguish you have caused,” the victim wrote to Shah.
Another victim because homeless after being coerced into $30,00 in debt via Shah’s scheme and a 75-year-old retiree was bilked out of $40,00—about half of her life savings—with the promise of learning how to market products online.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City debuted in 2020 and Shah made sure her wealth was known on the series by throwing over-the-top parties and acquiring designer clothes, all serviced by a gaggle of assistants dubbed the “Shah Squad.”
When Shah was arrested in 2021 during the filming of the show’s second season, she maintained her innocence. Her famous reaction at the time was, “The only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing!” The line came back to bite her when, according to NBC News, federal authorities used Shah’s words against her “in sentencing papers, claiming it showed she was mocking the system.”
Meanwhile, in other Housewives franchise news, Lisa Rinna is leaving The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, according to the Wrap. The actress, who joined the show in 2014, put in eight seasons of the series.
“This is the longest job I have held in my 35-year career and I am grateful to everyone at Bravo and all those involved in the series,” Rinna wrote in a statement.
Before joining Housewives, Rinna had roles on Melrose Place and Days of Our Lives. She dished in her book that she’d auditioned for Housewives in the beginning but had been turned down.
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