Shah and Stuart Smith, her "first assistant," were arrested in March 2021, and it was documented on an episode of RHOSLC. Prosecutors said that from 2012 to 2021, Shah and Smith carried out a telemarketing scheme that defrauded hundreds of older adults by selling them "business services," which according to prosecutors were just "fraudulent schemes" to steal the victims' money.
Shah, Smith, and other participants in the scheme would convince the victims to invest in an alleged online business opportunity, prosecutors said. Then they would sell lists of the victims' names to other participants in the scheme for "use by their telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as 'leads' would be defrauded by the other participants," according to the indictment.
As part of the scheme, some participants would sell "services" for the victims' "businesses," like tax preparation or website design services, prosecutors said. But the businesses didn't exist, and many of the older victims didn't even own a computer.
Before Judge Sidney Stein handed down her sentence in Manhattan federal court on Friday, Shah addressed the courtroom, sobbing as she apologized to her victims. "I am sorry. My actions have hurt innocent people," she said, according to Inner City Press.
Shah's defense attorney, Priya Chaudhry, said her client "cannot forgive herself" for what she did.
"The [victims] worked hard and tried their best and their lives are forever mangled now," Chaudhry said, according to NBC. "For the rest of Ms. Shah’s life, she will remember their names."
But prosecutors hit back against the defense's claim that Shah is remorseful, reportedly pointing to a text message presented as trial evidence, in which a “laughing” Shah asked an accomplice if they’d gotten an 80-year-old women to “stop crying” after she'd been defrauded.
In addition to prison time, Shah was also sentenced to five years supervised release, and was "also ordered to forfeit $6,500,000, 30 luxury items, and 78 counterfeit luxury items, and to pay $6,645,251 in restitution," according to the Department of Justice.
In her statement before the court, Shah vowed to do all she could to pay the restitution, including putting the funds from the "Justice for Jen" merchandise she previously sold towards the victims.
She and her manager, who was in the courtroom during the sentencing, were also "working on things," Shah said. Asked by the judge if she was "still in the cast" of the show "while in prison," Shah said "yes." Bravo, however, said no decisions have been made about Season 4.
The judge said the presence of Shah's manager in court made her "concerned" that Shah might "intend to profit from this procedure," but said she "assume[s] the government will take steps to effectuate this."
In a statement, US Attorney Damian Williams said Friday's sentencing means Shah "finally faces the consequences of the many years she spent targeting vulnerable, elderly victims."
"These individuals were lured in by false promises of financial security, but in reality, Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it," Williams said. "This conviction and sentence demonstrate once again that we will continue to vigorously protect victims of financial fraud and hold accountable those who engage in fraudulent schemes.”
Following her client's sentencing, Chaudhry said 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," Chaudhry said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "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 repeatedly proclaimed her innocence on RHOSLC and as recently as June, when she appeared on the YouTube channel Up and Adam! But then just one month later, Shah pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In court documents, Shah's lawyers argued that she should serve only three years in prison because she pleaded guilty and had shown remorse. Her lawyers said that Shah was involved in the telemarketing business on the legitimate side before being "slowly drawn" to work with her co-conspirators, who were committing fraud. Shah's life as an immigrant, wife, and mother show that she is a good person and did not seek out illegal activity when she began working in telemarketing, they argued.
"Yet pleading guilty and acknowledging her guilt before her family, her friends, and all the world has been extremely difficult for Ms. Shah," the sentencing memo reads. "Jen has always felt she must be perfect: the perfect daughter and family member, the perfect wife. The shame she feels from this offense is quite literally unbearable, and although she knows she committed a serious crime that hurt many people, it is psychologically extremely difficult for her to face her friends and family."
Prosecutors, however, argued in court documents that Shah should serve 10 years in prison because knew what she was doing — and went to great lengths to conceal her criminal conduct from authorities. When she was caught, she sold "Justice for Jen" merch, and prosecutors said she is the most culpable defendant in the case.
"She pled guilty at the eleventh hour, only after receiving the Government’s trial exhibits and witness statements," their sentencing memo reads. "In light of her conduct and her post-arrest behavior, her belated expressions of remorse ring hollow."
In March 2019, Shah sent texts praising employees for defrauding seven victims out of more than $15,000. She used the money to rent homes in Utah and New York, lease cars, buy hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of luxury goods, and fund cosmetic procedures, according to court documents. One victim said that Shah and her company defrauded her of $100,000, leaving her with “emotional, mental, physical and financial anguish," according to court documents.