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Real Housewives of Salt Lake City cast member sentenced to over six years in prison in telemarketing fraud scheme

<i>Seth Wenig/AP</i><br/>
Seth Wenig/AP
"The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" cast member Jennifer Shah (left)

By Kara Scannell, CNN

Jennifer Shah, a cast member on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for defrauding thousands of victims in a long-running telemarketing scheme that targeted the elderly and vulnerable.

Judge Sidney Stein ordered the sentence of 78 months, along with five years of supervised release.

Shah — the latest reality figure whose fraud was exposed by their fame-seeking over-the-top lifestylehad asked for a three-year sentence.

She had faced up to 14 years under the sentencing guidelines.

Shah’s defense attorney, Priya Chaudhry, released a statement on Friday, stating Shah “deeply regrets the mistakes that she has made and is profoundly sorry to the people she has hurt.”

“Jen has faith in our justice system, understands that anyone who breaks the law will be punished, and accepts this sentence as just,” the statement said. “Jen will pay her debt to society and when she is a free woman again, she vows to pay her debt to the victims harmed by her mistakes.”

‘I take full responsibility’

Judge Stein called Shah an “integral” member of the decade-long fraud scheme.

Shah, who was wearing a camel pantsuit, blouse, and leopard print stiletto heels, said, her voice cracking, “First and foremost I am deeply sorry for what I have done. I take full responsibility for my actions and I’m doing all I can to fix the harm I have caused.”

“I’m so sorry for the agony and significant financial loss each of you have endured,” she said of the victims.

Shah broke down sobbing as she apologized to her husband and two sons, who were present in the packed courtroom.

Shah, who was arrested in March 2021, pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of her guilty plea Shah agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and pay up to $9.5 million in restitution to the victims.

Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Shah to 10 years in prison, writing in a letter that Shah is “the most culpable person charged in this case.”

On Friday, Stein questioned Shah’s attorney why Shah’s written statement said nothing about her concern for the victims of the fraud and pointed out how she took steps to hide her fraud, including moving bank accounts to Kosovo and Cyprus.

Prosecutor Robert Sobelman said the evidence would be “devastating” if the case had gone to trial. He said Shah showed no remorse toward the victims and her texts messages revealed she was laughing with co-conspirators about them, asking if they had gotten one victim to “stop crying yet.”

Before the sentencing was underway Shah sat next to her husband, Sharrieff Shah, who clasped her hand. Her two sons were seated on the other side of her.

Roughly 20 of Shah’s family members and friends took up four rows of seats in the courtroom, which was at capacity with reporters, fans of the show and others in attendance.

Missing from the benches were any of her castmates from the reality series.

Shah’s attorney said she is no longer selling “Free Jen” or “Justice for Jen” merchandise on her website and any proceeds would go toward paying back victims.

Reality v reality TV

Shah is the latest star of a reality TV show, where private lives and ostentatious wealth are often on display, to be charged with wrongdoing.

Teresa Giudice, of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” franchise, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison in 2014 after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of bankruptcy fraud. She served 11 and a half months in prison before being released in 2015.

In June, Todd and Julie Chrisley, of USA’s “Chrisley Knows Best,” were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans and evading taxes, and last month, they were sentenced to federal prison for their convictions.

Shah was arrested in 2021 while Bravo was filming the second season of the reality TV series, with episodes of the show featuring Shah and her castmates speculating — and sparring — over her culpability. Shah had, at the time episodes aired, consistently professed her innocence, going as far as to state in a tagline for show promos that, “the only thing I’m guilty of is being ‘Shah-mazing.'”

Prosecutors alleged from 2012 until March 2021, Shah and others sold so-called “business services” to the alleged victims, including website design services to some elderly individuals who didn’t own computers. At times, she worked from an office in Manhattan.

As investigations into the telemarketing organization were underway and other members of it were arrested, prosecutors say, Shah continued to operate the fraudulent scheme, and took steps to conceal her conduct.

“She directed others to lie, she put businesses and bank accounts in the name of others, she required payment in cash, she instructed others to delete text messages and electronic documents, she moved some of her operations overseas, and she tried to put computers and other evidence beyond the reach of investigators,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing submission.

“The defendant, appearing to mock the charges in this case, also claimed that ‘the only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing,'” prosecutors wrote in the court filing, citing her tagline on the Bravo reality series.

Shah’s attorneys asked the judge to ignore her portrayal on the show.

“Just as Jen Shah has never been a ‘housewife,’ little else is real about her persona and caricature as portrayed by the editors of ‘RHOSLC,'” her attorneys wrote in their sentencing submission.

Shah submitted 30 letters of support from family and friends — none came from her current cast members who she had volatile relationships with over the two seasons.

She asked to serve her sentence at the federal prison in Bryan, Texas.

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Article Topic Follows: Utah

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