NEW YORK — Jen Shah, the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” reality TV star who pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in July, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for her role in a telemarketing scheme.
Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled on Friday that the Bravo celeb will spend 78 months behind bars, despite prosecutors’ suggested sentence of 120 months, for fraudulent conspiracy after admitting to participating in a national telemarketing program in more than five years. supervision after his release. .
Shah also agreed to waive $6.5 million and pay $9.5 million in restitution as part of his plea deal.
“I intend to pay back every red penny,” Shah said in his statement to court on Friday.
The judge ordered the reality TV star to surrender to authorities to begin his sentence on February 17.
Fans attend the sentencing hearing to see the jail sentence and outfit
Bravo fans stood outside the Manhattan courthouse in rainy conditions hours before the scheduled court hearing, hoping to be among the first to know how many years the reality star will be behind bars.
Along with his impending prison sentence, fans had another lingering question: what would Shah, who is often seen on screen wearing designer labels and ornate jewelry, wear to hear his fate? Before the judge heard the final words from Shah’s lawyers and prosecutors, he clarified that his Bravo personality was not inside the courtroom.
“A character your client is playing…is just a character,” Stein said, noting that Shah’s TV presence is “a heavily scripted operation.” He added that the court will not “confuse” reality with action.
Shah walked out of the elevators flanked by security guards and the yard wearing a camel-colored suit and leopard-print stilettos. Entering the courtroom, she sat between her husband, Sharrieff, and her eldest son, Sharrieff Jr., before sitting with her lawyers during the proceedings.
Lawyers say victim impact statements transformed Shah’s plea
Initially, Shah pleaded not guilty to fraudulent conspiracy charges and maintained her innocence for over a year as she continued filming for “RHOSLC.”
Shah’s lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, says her client’s efforts to maintain his innocence ‘came to an end’ after the defendant read statements from victims of his telemarketing scheme, which involved promoting bogus services as capable of enabling people to make money through online businesses.
“Remorse can be sincere even if it comes late,” Chaudry said.
Prosecutors say Shah deceived thousands of people across the country, some of whom are over 55. Shah’s lawyers said their client was generally unaware of the fraud because she did not speak to or see her victims while operating her business. Prosecutors said Shah’s blindness to the harm she caused victims was “absurd”.
prosecution attorney Robert Sobelman said Shah ran her own sales floor and hired people because she was in New York “half the year” doing business. In his statement to Stein, Sobelman mentioned how prosecutors allegedly found messages on his phone “laughing” with his co-conspirators about the “scam.”
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Sobelman said if the evidence they gathered against Shah had been judged, the result would be “devastating” and called Shah’s alleged offenses “prolific” compared to his co-conspirators.
Friday’s sentencing was originally scheduled for November. Shah was first arrested by authorities in March 2021 in Salt Lake City as Bravo cameras rolled ahead of a girls trip to Vail, Colorado. Shah’s assistant, Stuart Smith, was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Smith pleaded guilty in November, according to People.
Jen Shah addresses the court and apologizes to her son
Stein gave Shah the opportunity to address the court before issuing his decision.
In her statement, she reiterated that her reality TV persona is “invented, designed” and “edited” for entertainment. Shah also tearfully apologized to his family for the “shame” and “embarrassment I brought to them”.
Shah spoke about how the lawsuit has affected his family on Wednesday’s episode of “RHOSLC” while chatting with his therapist.
‘Not guilty’ or ‘guilty’:‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ star Jen Shah pleads not guilty in telemarketing scheme
“I feel like I’m out of control,” Shah told his therapist in the episode. “I fear that as a mother I have done something that affects Omar. … No child should have to go through this.”
In court, she apologized to her youngest son Omar, in particular, for the “trauma” he suffered after officers shot him as they sought to arrest his mother in March 2021.
“Mom is so sorry,” Shah said. “(I) completely accept the consequences of my actions.”
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US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after Shah’s July hearing that the star was a “key participant” in a “program targeting elderly and vulnerable victims”.
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Prosecutors say Shah operated the telemarketing program’s Manhattan-based sales floor and controlled day-to-day operations while moving some of the company’s operations to Kosovo to dodge law enforcement and regulatory scrutiny.
Shah took various steps to hide his role in the fraud, prosecutors said, including incorporating his business entities using third-party names, asking others to do the same, and ordering others to use mobile apps. encrypted messaging to communicate with each other.
Contributor: Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press