Jen Shah, the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star charged with running a nationwide telemarketing fraud scheme, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday morning, reversing her previous plea.
In front of Judge Sidney Stein shortly after 10:30 am, Shah entered into an agreement with federal prosecutors, changing her plea to guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She faces a sentence of up to 14 years in prison and agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and to pay restitution up to $9.5 million.
Shah, 48, said in court she “knew it was wrong, many people were harmed and I’m so sorry.”
She admitted that she “agreed with others to commit with wire fraud” and “knew it misled” victims, over 10 of which were over the age of 55.
Shah added there was a “misrepresentation of the product … regarding value of the service,” noting it “had little to no value.”
When asked if she knew what she was doing was wrong and illegal, she replied, “Yes, your honor.”
NBC News has reached out to her attorneys for comment.
“Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims,” Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement following her plea.
“These victims were sold false promises of financial security but instead Shah and her co-conspirators defrauded them out of their savings and left them with nothing to show for it. This Office is committed to rooting out these schemes whatever form they take,” he continued.
Shah was previously scheduled to stand trial beginning next week.
Shah, 48, pleaded not guilty in April 2021 to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
She and her “first assistant,” Stuart Smith, were accused the previous month of committing fraud and money laundering in a scheme in which they “generated and sold ‘lead lists’ of individuals for other members of their scheme to repeatedly scam, ” the US Attorney’s Office said.
They defrauded older and computer illiterate people by operating multi-state telemarketing and in-person sales teams that would sell “essentially non-existent” services and fight consumer efforts to obtain refunds from 2012 through 2021, according to an indictment.
“Shah and Smith undertook significant efforts to conceal their roles in the Business Opportunity Scheme. For example, Shah and Smith among other things, incorporated their business entities using third parties’ names,” said the indictment.
Smith also pleaded not guilty to the charges in April 2021.
Shah appeared on the Bravo reality television show “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” in its first two seasons.
Bravo, which is owned by NBCUniversal, NBC News’ parent company, declined to comment.
The second season of the show, which highlights the extravagant lifestyles of the cast, featured Shah’s legal woes.
Shah’s opulent daily life was on full display on “Real Housewives” including her luxurious closet full of designer clothes and bags. The series also highlighted her group of assistants dubbed the “Shah Squad.”
She is married to Sharrieff Shah, a cornerbacks/special teams coordinator for the University of Utah football team. According to Utah’s Office of the State Auditor, he made about $550,000 in wages and benefits in the 2020 fiscal year.
During the first “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” meeting, when castmembers reflect on the season, Shah was asked why she needed so many assistants.
“I need a lot of help, you know? They all do different things. I run a lot of different companies and businesses, and a lot of them have different roles in the companies,” she said.
Executive show producer Andy Cohen then asked, “People are wondering how’d you get so rich?
She replied: “My background is in direct response marketing for about 20 years, so our company does advertising. We have a platform that helps people acquire customers, so when you’re shopping online or on the Internet, and something pops, we have the algorithm behind why you’re getting served that ad.”
Shah’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 28.