NEW YORK – Jen Shah, the embattled “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” reality star who pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in July, has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for her role in a telemarketing scheme.
Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled Friday that the Bravo celebrity would spend 78 months behind bars, despite prosecutors’ suggested sentence of 120 months, for fraud conspiracy after she admitted to participating in a nationwide telemarketing scheme in addition to five years of supervision after her release .
Shah also agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and to pay $9.5 million in restitution as part of her plea agreement.
“I intend to repay every red cent,” Shah said in her statement to the court Friday.
The judge ordered for the reality star to turn herself in to authorities to begin her sentence Feb.17.
Fans attend sentence hearing to see prison time and outfit
Bravo fans stood outside the Manhattan courthouse, in rainy conditions hours before the scheduled hearing, in the hopes of being among the first to know how many years the reality TV star would spend behind bars.
Aside from her pending prison sentence, fans had another lingering question: What would Shah, who is often seen on screen wearing designer labels and ornate jewelry, wear to hear her fate? Before the judge heard final words from Shah’s attorneys and prosecutors, he made it clear that her Bravo personality was not inside the courtroom.
“A character your client plays … is simply a character,” Stein said, noting that Shah’s TV presence is “a heavily scripted operation.” He added that the court will not “confuse” reality with acting.
Shah exited the elevators flanked by security and court officers wearing a camel-colored suit and leopard print stiletto heels. Upon entering the courtroom she took a seat between her husband, Sharrieff, and eldest son, Sharrieff Jr., before sitting with her attorneys during the proceeding.
Attorneys say victim statements turned Shah’s plea
Initially, Shah pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and maintained her innocence for more than a year as she continued to film for “RHOSLC.”
Shah’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, said her client’s efforts to maintain innocence “ended” after the defendant read statements from the victims of her telemarketing scheme, which consisted of promoting bogus services as capable of enabling people to make money through online businesses.
“Remorse can be genuine even if it shows up late,” Chaudry said.
Prosecutors say Shah cheated thousands of people nationwide, including some over age 55. Shah’s attorneys said their client was mostly unaware of the fraud because she didn’t speak or see her victims while operating her business. Prosecutors said Shah’s blindness to the hurt she caused victims was “preposterous.”
Prosecuting attorney Robert Sobelman said Shah ran her own sales floor and hired people as she was in New York “half the year” conducting business. In his statement to Stein, Sobelman mentioned how prosecutors allegedly found messages in her phone “laughing” with her co-conspirators about “defrauding people.”
More:‘Real Housewives’ star Jen Shah pleads guilty in fraud case
Sobelman said if the evidence they collected against Shah had gone to trial, the result would be “devastating” and called Shah’s alleged offenses “prolific” in comparison to her co-conspirators.
Friday’s sentencing was originally set for November. Shah was first detained by authorities March 2021 in Salt Lake City while Bravo cameras were rolling ahead of a girls trip to Vail, Colorado. Shah’s assistant Stuart Smith was also arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Smith pleaded guilty in November, according to People.
Jen Shah addresses the court, apologizes to her son
Stein gave Shah an opportunity to address the court before handing down his ruling.
In her statement, she reiterated that her reality TV persona is “invented, designed” and “edited” for entertainment. Shah also tearfully apologized to her family for the “shame” and “embarrassment I’ve brought upon them.”
Shah talked about the way the trial has affected her family during Wednesday’s episode of “RHOSLC” while talking with her therapist.
‘Not guilty’ or ‘guilty’:‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ star Jen Shah pleads not guilty in telemarketing scheme
“I feel like I’m not in control,” Shah told her therapist in the episode. “I’m worried that, as a mom, I’ve done something where it’s affected Omar. … No kid should have to go though this.”
In court she apologized to her youngest son Omar, specifically, for the “trauma” he experienced after officers drew guns at him while looking to arrest his mother in March 2021.
“Mommy is so sorry,” Shah said. “(I am) completely accepting of the consequences of my actions.”
‘RHOSLC’ at BravoCon:Heather Gay, Meredith Marks dish on ‘Housewives’ drama and Jen Shah plea
US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after Shah’s July hearing that the star was a “key participant” in a “scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims.”
More:Jen Shah of ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ arrested, charged in massive telemarketing scheme
Prosecutors say Shah was operating the Manhattan-based sales floor of the telemarketing scheme and controlled the day-to-day operations while also moving some of the business’ operations to Kosovo to dodge law enforcement and regulatory scrutiny.
Shah took various steps to hide her role in the fraud, prosecutors said, including incorporating her business entities using third parties’ names, instructing others to do the same and directing others to use encrypted messaging applications to communicate with each other.
Contributing: Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press