Jennifer Shah, center, of the reality television series ‘The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,’ touches her face mask as she leaves federal court in Manhattan, after pleading guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, at New York, Monday. She admitted that she and others defrauded thousands of people across the country for nearly a decade with a telemarketing fraud that convinced victims they could make big money from their own businesses. on line. (Lawrence Neumeister, Associated Press)
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NEW YORK — A member of the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of conspiracy to cheat that could result in a jail term of more than 11 years.
Jennifer Shah, 48, of Park City, pleaded to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in Manhattan federal court after signing a plea agreement with prosecutors a day earlier that provides a recommended sentence of 11 to 14 years behind bars.
She told a judge that beginning in 2012, she participated in a massive telemarketing fraud for nearly a decade that prosecutors say deceived thousands of people across the country, some of whom were over 55 years.
She said she knew she was teaming up with others to market products to people “who were of little or no value.”
“I knew it was wrong and many people were hurt and I’m so sorry,” Shah told judge Sidney H. Stein.
Sentencing has been set for November 28. Shah remained free on bail but did not speak as she left the courthouse and walked a short distance to a waiting vehicle.
In a statement afterwards, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams called Shah “a key participant in a nationwide program targeting elderly and vulnerable victims.”
He added: “These victims were sold false promises of financial security, but instead Shah and his co-conspirators swindled them out of their savings and gave them nothing to show for.”
I knew it was wrong and a lot of people were hurt and I’m so sorry about that.
Assistant United States Attorney Kiersten Ann Fletcher said Shah acted as a “primary broker”, directing what the sellers were telling their victims and sharing the illegal profits, using some of the money to pay for the New York apartment where she lived and for other personal expenses. elements.
As part of his plea deal, Shah agreed to forfeit $6.5 million and pay $9.5 million in restitution.
Fletcher said Shah engaged in a fraud from 2012 to March 2021 that sold bogus services that were presented as capable of enabling people to earn substantial sums through online businesses.
Prosecutors said Shah and others provided lists of people to “Business Opportunity Scheme” buyers who actually consisted of other people who had previously paid to set up their own online businesses.
They said she lied about how much individuals could earn after purchasing the company’s services and about the alleged success of other people who purchased the services.
Shah began operating a Manhattan-based sales floor that sold the fraudulent products, Fletcher said.
These victims were sold false promises of financial security, but instead Shah and his co-conspirators swindled them out of their savings and gave them nothing to show for.
–American attorney Damian Williams
From 2018 to 2020, Shah controlled the day-to-day operations of the Manhattan operation and moved some of his operations to Kosovo to dodge law enforcement and regulatory oversight, the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors said Shah took various steps to hide his role in the fraud, including incorporating his business entities using third-party names, asking others to do the same, and directing others to use encrypted messaging apps to communicate with each other. They said she also made many structured cash withdrawals to avoid foreign currency transaction reporting requirements.
Fletcher said Shah told a co-conspirator to lie under oath when questioned by the Federal Trade Commission and provided him with written talking points to follow during the deposition.
She added that tax returns showed Shah underreported fraud proceeds by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shah also acknowledged during her plea that she went to treatment two years ago for alcohol and depression.