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Federal Prosecutors Seek a Decade Behind Bars for Jen Shah, the ‘Most Culpable Person’ in a Nationwide Telemarketing Fraud

Jennifer Shah

Jennifer Shah (image via YouTube/Bravo TV)

Federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence former Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jennifer Shah to 10 years in prison, calling her the “most culpable person charged” in a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted the elderly.

“For nearly a decade, the defendant was an integral leader of a wide-ranging, nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme that victimized thousands of innocent people,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kiersten A. Fletcher wrote in a blistering sentencing letter. “Many of those people were elderly or vulnerable. Many of those people suffered significant financial hardship and damage. At the defendant’s direction, victims were defrauded over and over again until they had nothing left. 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.”

In July, Shah pleaded guilty to participating in a wire fraud conspiracy for purported coaching serves for online business opportunities, which she acknowledged had “little or no value.” She told Senior U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein that she knew that many of the purchasers were over the age of 55.

In the sentencing letter, prosecutors said that neither the Federal Trade Commission’s investigations nor the arrest of her co-conspirators deterred Shah.

“To be clear, the defendant was not ignorant of these developments: she took a series of increasingly extravagant steps to conceal her criminal conduct from the authorities,” the letter states. “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. These efforts were not short-lived or narrow in scope. She engaged in a yearslong, comprehensive effort to hide her continued role in the scheme.”

Throughout her ordeals, Shah maintained her innocence and reportedly proclaimed: “the only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing.” Prosecutors detail her public relations offensive, and the 11th hour about-face before trial, in the letter.

“She then went on a public offensive and tried to profit off the charges by selling ‘Justice for Jen’ merchandise,” the letter says. “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.”

Last week, Shah’s lawyer Priya Chaudhry sought a three-year sentence for her client, whom she called “an exceptional mother and a good woman who has already been punished extensively as a result of the sins of her past.” Chaudhry claimed that the show that propelled her client to public fame presented a misleading portrait of Shah.

“In a perfect homage to ‘reality’ television, which in actuality is a semi-scripted, heavily-edited facsimile of ‘reality’ intentionally manipulated to maximize ratings, episodes of the RHOSLC have been filmed and aired during the pendency of Ms. Shah’s case which misleadingly suggest that Ms. Shah’s statements and actions in these episodes match the posture of Ms. Shah’s case or reflect her accurate sentiments about this matter,” the defense sentencing memo states. “Worse, due to editing, scripting, and the network’s complete control over the ‘story-line’ of the RHOSLC, as her sentencing date approaches, Ms. Shah has been made to seem intransigent, defiant, and often even unrepentant, about her actions here. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Shah is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2023.

Read the government’s letter here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."