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Jen Shah sentenced to 78 months in federal prison

The ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ star is guilty of running telemarketing scheme that defrauded elderly victims

SHARE Jen Shah sentenced to 78 months in federal prison
“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah has been sentenced to 78 months in federal prison.

“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah leaves the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Shah, who is married to an assistant football coach at the University of Utah, has been sentenced to 78 months in federal prison.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Friday morning in a crowded Southern District of New York courtroom, U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein sentenced “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star Jen Shah to 78 months — 612 years — in prison for running a nationwide telemarketing scheme that targeted seniors. Shah pleaded guilty to the charges in July.

During the sentencing, Stein said, “There is no question that from 2012 and 2021 Ms. Shah was in a conspiracy that took tens of millions of dollars from elderly people.”

Stein informed Shah that he will keep her on supervised release for five years after her sentence is served to make sure she does not commit another crime.

The Justice Department had requested a 10-year sentence. In court documents filed on Dec. 23, 2022, and obtained by the Deseret News, U.S. District Attorney Damien Williams describes Shah as “the most culpable person charged in this case,” and “an integral leader of a wide-ranging, nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimized thousands of innocent people.”

“At the defendant’s direction, victims were defrauded over and over again until they had nothing left,” Williams writes. “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.”

The statement also alleges Shah mocked the charges with her “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” Season 2 opening tagline, “The only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing,” and sold “Justice for Jen” merchandise. “She pled guilty at the eleventh hour, only after receiving the Government’s trial exhibits and witness statements. In light of her conduct and her post-arrest behavior, her belated expressions of remorse ring hollow,” according to the statement.

The court filing includes new victim impact statements from those who were targeted by the telemarketing scheme. One victim lost $100,000, according to the statement, and writes the loss forced her to mortgage her home, led her to contemplate suicide and has left her unable to pay for her ill husband’s health care.

In a sentencing memorandum filed on Dec. 16 on Shah’s behalf, her attorneys requested a three-year sentence. The memo states, “We submit that such a sentence is just and fair because it takes into account Ms. Shah’s history and characteristics, the facts and circumstances of the offense, and meets the statutory requirement ... that a court impose a sentence that is ‘not greater than necessary’ to achieve the goals of punishment.” 

The memo cites her background, her husband and children, and Shah’s advocacy work, stating, “Due to her celebrity status, which she has used to significantly advance the rights of marginalized and disenfranchised communities, Jen is uniquely positioned to benefit society.”

On Wednesday, just two days before sentencing, prosecutors filed a supplemental submission, stating the government had received an unsolicited letter from an individual who had filed a restraining order against Shah after Shah showed up at her Nevada home at 2:30 a.m. to confront her for screenshoting Shah’s text messages to her husband, with whom she was allegedly having an affair. Shah’s legal team later wrote they were able to obtain emails from the anonymous individual recanting her allegations against Shah.

The submission states the government had obtained corroborating materials including a police report and the restraining order, and reads, “Individual-1’s description of the manner in which the defendant treated her is consistent with the Government’s understanding of how the defendant frequently interacted with others, including other participants in the Business Opportunity Scheme.”

Shah’s attorneys filed a rebuttal on Thursday requesting the judge strike the prosecution’s submission. “Nothing in the government’s submission has any relevance to Ms. Shah’s offense or the appropriate sentence here, nor is it ‘relevant conduct’ under even the most liberal interpretation of that phrase,” the statement reads.

Shah’s attorneys wrote they obtained emails in which the anonymous individual recanted her allegations of Shah’s affair and admits she made them as a result of PTSD. “This entire escapade proves why this sort of unreliable, salacious nonsense has no place in a federal criminal sentencing. Rather than focusing on the grave task of fashioning the just sentence for Ms. Shah, who has acknowledged her criminal wrongdoing, the government has wasted its own resources and the Court’s time, all the while needlessly embarrassing Ms. Shah thirty-six hours before the most important day of her life.”

Stein ordered Shah to surrender to prison on Feb. 17.