'Real Housewives' star Jen Shah sentenced to more than 6 years in prison for fraud

Jen Shah will serve 6.5 years in prison for running a fraudulent telemarketing scheme targeting the elderly.
Jen Shah will serve more than 6 years in prison for running a fraudulent telemarketing scheme targeting the elderly. (Photo: NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Jen Shah, star of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, has been sentenced to 6 and half years in prison for fraud. She'll be subject to five years of supervised release when she's free. It's a harsher sentence than the three-year term the 49-year-old Bravo star was seeking. Shah pleaded guilty for her role in a nationwide telemarketing scheme that targeted the elderly and vulnerable.

"Jen Shah deeply regrets the mistakes that she has made and is profoundly sorry to the people she has hurt. Jen has faith in our justice system, understands that anyone who breaks the law will be punished, and accepts this sentence as just," Shah's lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, tells Yahoo Entertainment in a statement. "Jen will pay her debt to society and when she is a free woman again, she vows to pay her debt to the victims harmed by her mistakes."

Shah sobbed in a New York courthouse on Friday before she learned her fate. She apologized for hurting innocent people, adding that she's doing all she can to earn restitution for the victims. The reality star's husband, Coach Sharrieff Shah, and the couple's two sons, Sharrieff Shah Jr., 28, and Omar, 19, were in attendance. All three wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency.

Before delivering the 78-month sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein made it clear Shah's persona on RHOSLC was not used against her in his decision. Shah must surrender to prison on Feb. 17, 2023.

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In July, Shah pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The government claimed she and her co-conspirators victimized "thousands of innocent people." The count carried a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, but her plea deal with federal prosecutors called for a sentence of anywhere between 11 to 14 years in prison. Per the agreement, Shah will also forfeit $6.5 million and pay restitution up to $9.5 million. The Justice Department requested 10 years behind bars.

When RHOSLC premiered in 2020, Shah immediately became a fan-favorite. She touted her lavish lifestyle and over-the-top designer wardrobe, as most Housewives do, but instead of bragging about her rich husband, Shah boasted how she was the moneymaker.

"What I've done for the last 20 years is direct response marketing. I make millions," Shah said in a 2019 confessional interview, that clearly did not age well. "Hey, you've gotta do what you've gotta do for money. I'm like the Wizard of Oz."

Shah was arrested in March 2021 and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Prosecutors said Shah and her associates "generated and sold 'lead lists' of innocent individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam." The operation supposedly ran from 2012 up until her arrest. Shah pleaded not guilty.

Cameras were rolling when federal prosecutors stormed a van in Utah in an attempt to arrest Shah. The reality star's legal woes have been a major storyline on the second and third season of the show. For over a year, viewers saw Shah vehemently maintain her innocence, often through tears — or while screaming at her co-stars. Her tagline on the show was, "The only thing I'm guilty of is being Shah-mazing." She sold "Justice for Jen" merchandise. (In court on Friday, Shah claimed proceeds will go to the victims.) Viewers were stunned when she changed her plea last year after filming of the show's third season wrapped.

Prosecutors called Shah "the most culpable person charged in this case" ahead of the hearing, according to documents obtained by Yahoo.

"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," the government wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

The document contained multiple victim impact statements from some of the people Shah and her associates defrauded. A widow in her mid-70s lost half of her life savings to false business promises. The victim dreamt "of a better retirement and life," which was "taken away" when she was coerced to give her money away "for false promises." Another victim, who has serious health conditions, ultimately "became homeless" after handing over money for business opportunities that never materialized. The government said Shah was directly involved in scamming these people.

In a letter to the judge ahead of sentencing, Shah wrote, "The terrible business decisions I made and professional relationships I developed stemmed from some personal painful experiences that I was going through in my life."

Lawyers for Shah said she was involved in both legitimate and fraudulent parts of the business, but maintained she was not the "mastermind" behind the scheme and did not communicate with the victims. They also blamed heavy editing on the "semi-scripted" reality show for making her seem "intransigent, defiant and often even unrepentant about her actions here. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as Jen Shah has never been a 'housewife,' little else is real about her person and caricature as portrayed by the editors of RHOSLC."

Shah's husband pleaded for leniency in a letter to the court ahead of sentencing. He partially blamed himself for her actions and said his busy work schedule as University of Utah's assistant football coach caused her to "make catastrophically bad business decisions and develop relationships with awful people." None of Shah's RHOSLC co-stars — Lisa Barlow, Heather Gay, Meredith Marks or Whitney Rose — were among the dozen people to write letters to the judge.