Documents obtained by E! News show that Shah plead guilty in federal court on July 11, just a week before she was set to go on trial for her ties to an alleged telemarketing scheme targeting the elderly. Prior to the last-minute hearing, Shah had maintained her innocence after being arrested in March 2021, initially pleading not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
Now, Shah has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing. She faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $9.5 million in fines and restitution, in addition to a $6 million forfeiture.
NBC News reported that during the July 11 proceedings, Shah stated that she had "agreed with others to commit with wire fraud" and "knew it misled" many victims, some of whom she said were over the age of 55. "[I] knew it was wrong," Shah told the court. "Many people were harmed and I'm so sorry."
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York—where Shah was charged—issued a statement shortly after her plea change. "Jennifer Shah was a key participant in a nationwide scheme that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims," he said, per a press release. "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."
An attorney for Shah told E! News in a statement following the plea change, "Ms. Shah is a good woman who crossed a line. She accepts full responsibility for her actions and deeply apologizes to all who have been harmed. Ms. Shah is also sorry for disappointing her husband, children, family, friends, and supporters. Jen pled guilty because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family. "
Shah is due back in court for sentencing on November 28.
Stuart Smith, Shah's assistant, was arrested on similar charges—conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, as well as obstructing an official proceeding—last year. He initially pleaded not guilty but reversed his plea during a hearing in Nov. 2021. At RHOSLC's season two reunion, Shah told host Andy Cohen that she hadn't spoken to Smith since they were both arrested.
Asked how she reacted to the news about Smith's plea change, she said, "I wish I could respond to that or answer it but I can't because it has to do, obviously, with the legal case."
"We didn't work together in the businesses that were being discussed," Shah added of her relationship with Smith. "Stuart wasn't around me every day which is why I had a lot of other assistants, because he was doing his own stuff."
She maintained her innocence during the reunion. "I will fight for every person out there that can't fight for themselves because they don't have the resources or the means, so they don't fight," Shah said, arguing that the rate is high because people settle for plea deals. "I will fight because number one, I'm innocent, and number two I'm going to f--king represent every other person out there that can't fight and hasn't been able to."
Several of Shah's RHOSLC co-stars have showed their support for her in the past year, including Heather Gay and Lisa Barlow. As recently as July 10, Meredith Marks also defended Shah, writing in an Instagram Story, "For those of you who may not know this: I live in the United States of America. In the US, one has a right to a trial and is presumed innocent until proven guilty."
Season three of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City is currently filming.
E! News has reached out to Shah's attorney for her comment.
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