“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah pleaded guilty Monday on criminal fraud charges stemming from an alleged telemarketing scheme, according to court documents obtained by Variety.
Shah — who had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges — entered the plea on Monday morning in Manhattan federal court, one week ahead of the planned trial, which was scheduled to begin on July 18.
Shah and others were previously accused of scamming hundreds of elderly people through a wide-ranging telemarketing scheme in the U.S. The situation has been a storyline on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” where Shah is known for her over-the-top lifestyle, glitzy fashion, many assistants, crying, screaming, throwing drinks and continuous denials.
Shah’s plea agreement calls for a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. Her sentencing is now scheduled for Nov. 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
In addition to time behind bars, the plea agreement calls for Shah to make restitution in an amount of more than $9 million to victims, as well as forfeiture of $6 million.
At the Monday morning hearing, Shah’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, said the reality star would like to withdraw her plea of not guilty. Shah admitted to wrongdoing, apologized to the judge and said she would not appeal if the sentencing is for 168 months or fewer.
“In 2012 to March 2021 in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, I agreed with others to commit wire fraud,” Shah told Judge Sidney Stein in court, reading from a prepared statement, according to ABC News. “I knew this was wrong. I knew many people were harmed and I’m so sorry.”
The maximum penalty on the count of conviction is 30 years of imprisonment. Under the terms of her plea deal, Shah’s sentencing guidelines are between 135 to 168 months of imprisonment (between 11 and 14 years), though the judge can choose to sentence Shah above or below that timeframe.
Shah was arrested and charged back in March 2021, along with her assistant, Stuart Smith, who was also a presence on the Bravo show. Shah initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, brought about from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, of conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit money laundering through telemarketing.
Season 3 of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” began production in March, shortly after the second season’s reunion episodes aired. Shah’s trial was originally scheduled to begin on March 22, but was postponed until this July. Her arrest, though not on camera, and its aftermath — especially the fallout with her family— was extensively covered in Season 2. And the lead up to Shah’s trial has been chronicled as a main storyline for the show’s third season. Bravo cameras were not in the courtroom with Shah on Monday, Variety has learned, but she will continue to film on the show.
It’s not the first time in “The Real Housewives” franchise that a cast member’s legal troubles — and countdown to their jail time — has been made into an irresistible reality TV storyline.
When Teresa Giudice from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” was convicted of fraud and sentenced in 2014, her prison lead-up and eventual release was filmed by Bravo’s cameras. She remains the star of the show, and her ex-husband, Joe Giudice, who served 41 months in prison, was deported to his native Italy. More recently, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” has focused on Erika Jayne’s legal troubles, following the moral and financial collapse of her estranged husband, former hot shot lawyer Tom Girardi, who was disbarred after being accused of embezzling millions from a settlement owed to victims of a deadly plane crash.