‘Real Housewife’ Jen Shah is going to prison — but will it be for 3 years or 10 years?
In court filings, prosecutors argue Shah was “an integral leader” of a telemarketing fraud scheme.
When Jen Shah is sentenced on Jan. 6, the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star will be going to prison. The question is — for how long?
Shah’s lawyers have asked US District Judge Sidney H. Stein for a sentence of three years. Prosecutors are asking for 10 years, arguing that Shah was “an integral leader of a wide-ranging, nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimized thousands of innocent people,” many of whom were “elderly or vulnerable and “suffered significant financial hardship. … 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.”
After forcefully and repeatedly declaring her innocence on episodes of “Real Housewives” and on social media, Shah pleaded guilty in July to being a leader of a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimized thousands of largely older people by selling them phony “business services.” Shah provided the victims’ contact information to “sales floors” that would then defraud them.
According to documents filed Friday by the US attorney in the Southern District of New York, Shah — the wife of University of Utah assistant football coach Sharrieff Shah — “was not deterred” when she learned that the Federal Trade Commission was investigating her and her “ co-conspirators.” Or when her co-conspirators pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial.
According to prosecutors, she engaged in a “yearslong, comprehensive effort to hide” her involvement. 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.”
In their filing, prosecutors expressed their displeasure with Shah’s actions after she was arrested, when she “went on a public offensive” declaring her innocence and selling “Justice for Jen” merchandise. And the US attorney is not impressed by Shah’s guilty plea: “She pleaded guilty at the eleventh hour, only after receiving the government’s trial exhibits and witness statements. In the light of her conduct and her post-arrest behavior, her related expressions of remorse ring hollow.”
In a Dec 16 filing, Shah’s lawyers blame the editing of “Real Housewives” for making her appear “intransigent, defiant, and often even unrepentant. … Nothing could be further from the truth. 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.”
Shah’s lawyers also argued that growing up Polynesian in Utah — “as an outsider in a hostile and strange environment” — affected Shah, as did having to drop out of the University of Utah to support her husband and newborn son.
Shah’s lawyers argue that, before she began taking part in this scheme, her life “was marked by hard, honest work, respectable achievement, and a hard-earned reputation for true generosity”; that she was “only one of many people involved”; that she was not “a mastermind” of the scheme. The filing also claims that “well before her arrest, Jen Shah left the telemarketing business, launched her own eponymously-named fashion and beauty lines, and … reinvented herself completely as a glamorous ‘Real Housewife of Salt Lake City.'” The government disputes that timeline.
The government’s filing confirmed that Shah was under investigation years before “RHOSLC” premiered in November 2000; she reportedly lied in testimony she gave to the FTC in 2015 — and the investigation continued until her arrest in March 2021. And, according to the government’s filing, Shah used her fraudulently obtained money “to live a life of luxury,” including a rented 9,420-square-foot mansion in Park City, a rented apartment in midtown Manhattan, a leased Porsche Panamera and “hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of luxury goods.”
In another court filing, it’s revealed that of 119 “luxury items” — purses, clothes, etc. — that were seized from Shah, 88 were counterfeit.
The government’s sentencing filing includes statements from several of Shah’s victims, who were prepared to testify against her at trial before her guilty plea. Including a widow in her mid-70s who said, ”The mental anguish is still with me, today, and the guilt I harbor from being so vulnerable and easy prey to such sharks, still swim in my mind.”
According to prosecutors, another widow in her mid-70s said she lost $40,000, helped her life savings. Another victim lost more than $100,000 and described her “anguish” because of her “everyday struggle … to get money for the next set of bills that need to be paid and the food and shelter” she needs, along with caring for her “critically ill ” husband and 90-year-old father.
The US attorney also argued that a 36-month sentence would be considerably less time than Shah’s co-conspirators have received, and many of them were less culpable. Her request for 36 months is “woefully inadequate,” and the government argued against granting her leniency because her husband and two sons would be adversely affected by what Shah’s lawyers called “a mistake that has not only ruined her own life, but has broken her heart as she has watched the damage that her actions have caused to the family that she loves so dearly.”
“To be sure, the defendant’s family may find it difficult during the defendant’s incarceration, as is true of the family members of anyone who is incarcerated,” prosecutors wrote. “But the defendant engaged in brazen criminal conduct for nearly a decade, each day knowing that she was putting her liberty at risk and that it would hurt those closest to her if she were caught. The harm the defendant has caused to her own family through her choices and her actions should not inure to her benefit at sentencing, especially when balanced against the horrific outcomes for the victims of her conduct.”
Shah’s sentencing, which has been postponed multiple times, is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6, at 12:30 pm Mountain time.
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