Real Housewife sentenced in telemarketing scam
US reality TV star Jennifer Shah of ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for wire fraud in connection with telemarketing in a federal court on Friday.
Initially, she faced 50 years behind bars for her role in the scheme. Shah must also forfeit $6.5 million, pay $6.6 million in restitution to the elderly victims of the scam, and serve five years’ supervised release after she leaves prison.
While US District Court Judge Sidney Stein acknowledged his sentence was significantly less than either the prosecutors’ request or the probation recommendation, he said it reflected the “seriousness of the crime.” However, he also called the crime “extensive” and questioned whether Shah “truly appreciates the damage” she did to her victims.
The Real Housewife made a tearful public apology to the defrauded pensioners, declaring herself “sincerely remorseful” and promising to “repay every cent.”
Shah and her “first assistant” Stuart Smith “allegedly generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam,” Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss told the courtroom on Friday. “In actual reality and as alleged, the so-called business opportunities pushed on the victims … were just fraudulent schemes, motivated by greed, to steal victims’ money.”
“These individuals were lured in by false promises of financial security, but in reality Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it,” US Attorney Damian Williams added in a statement.
While she initially denied all wrongdoing, even working the court case into her reality show with the tagline “the only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing,” Shah changed her plea to guilty last year in exchange for prosecutors dropping a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carried an additional 20 years’ maximum sentence. Coupled with the maximum for the wire fraud charge, she could have faced up to 50 years in prison.
Her lawyer explained at the time that Shah wanted to “put this ordeal behind her” and that pleading guilty meant she accepted “full responsibility for her actions.”