‘Real Housewives’ star scammed older Americans, is sentenced to years in prison, feds say

Prosecutors wanted “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jennifer Shah to spend a decade in federal prison after leading a yearslong telemarketing scheme that scammed Americans nationwide, including many older individuals, officials said.

Now US Attorney Judge Sidney Stein, of the Southern District of New York, has issued her a slightly lesser sentence of six and a half years in federal prison on Jan. 6, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office.

“Jennifer Shah finally faces the consequences of the many years she spent targeting vulnerable, elderly victims,” ​​US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “These individuals were lured in by false promises of financial securitybut in reality, Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it.”

McClatchy News contacted Shah’s attorneys for comment on Jan. 6 and did not immediately receive a response.

In July, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the scheme that drained victims’ bank accounts empty while she lived a “life of luxury,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. While others were also involved in the scheme, officials described her as the “most culpable person charged.”

“At (Shah’s) direction, victims were defrauded over and over again until they had nothing left,” prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Shah’s attorneys argued a sentence of three years in prison would be fair, emphasizing her remorse and that she’s already agreed to pay victims $6.6 million in restitution, her attorneys wrote in a sentencing memo.

In short, Stein told Shah’s attorneys that “the character your client plays on the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City is simply a character,” according to The Associated Press.

“The Real Housewives franchise involves role playing, editing. People should not confuse, and this court is not going to confuse, the character she plays on an entertainment show with the person I have before me,” Stein added.

Ahead of her arrest in March 2021, Shah used the money made from her scheme to rent a sprawling mansion in Park City, Utah, valued at $7.4 million — calling it the “Shah Ski Chalet” — and also rented an apartment in Manhattan, prosecutors wrote in the sentencing submission.

She also went on a spending spree, buying a Porsche Panamera, paying for cosmetic procedures and more, prosecutors said.

Previously, officials accused Shah of trying to profit off the charges against her with “Justice for Jen” merchandise, including a shirt that said “NOT GUILTY” before her guilty plea, prosecutors wrote.

The TV star’s Business Opportunity scheme

Shah’s fraud scheme dates to 2012 and continued until her arrest in March 2021according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

While prosecutors said Shah appeared to be a “wealthy and successful businessman on ‘reality’ television,” she targeted innocent people by selling them fraudulent “business services” to steal their money.

They were misled into believing they’d profit off of thisThe Associated Press reported.

Most victims were older than 55, according to the government’s sentencing submission.

One victim, a widow in her mid-70s, testified that she lost over half of her life savings, $40,000, after being defrauded by Shah and others, prosecutors wrote in their sentencing submission.

For years, Shah took extensive efforts to hide her illegal actions, including attempts to get rid of evidence, officials said in the release announcing her sentencing.

Shah’s attorneys in their sentencing memo acknowledged how the telemarketing scheme caused victims, “many of them elderly,” to lose “money buying worthless services from companies in which Ms. Shah was involved.”

They also argued that “there were many, many people involved in perpetrating this fraud, which operated openly and as part of an industry operating with a fine line between what is legal and illegal…Ms. Shah was involved in both the legitimate and fraudulent sides of this industry.”

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